Gifted In The Netherlands

photo courtesy of Robin Benzrihem, Unsplash

Lieke, 20, lives in the Netherlands. Like many of you, she is not sure she is gifted but she relates to the traits of the rainforest mind. As I read her description of herself, I wondered, once again, why humans are so uncomfortable with the super smart. Or even the very smart. The ones who are deep divers into their hearts, minds, and souls. And into meaning, purpose, and justice.

And speaking of diving, I had a counseling client this week who was pressuring herself to “get over” the trauma of her childhood. Why was it taking so long to unravel her past and heal the mistaken beliefs she’d acquired at an early age?  She was told by friends to let go of the “story” she was telling herself and move on. To stop being so intense and introspective. I told her there are folks who are water skiers, snorkelers, and scuba divers in life. She, and I, and the RFMs I know are the deep divers. They are compelled to examine themselves and their worlds thoroughly because they strive to live authentic, compassionate, meaningful lives — for themselves, their communities, and for the planet. They know that “diving into the wreck,” as Adrienne Rich called it, will lead to the discovery of the hidden treasures that have been buried under the generations of trauma, loss, and fear. And this will change everything.

Lieke is a diver.

“I learned to hide my feelings which were pretty intense. They still are. Deep down I am a perfectionist and idealist. Always thinking about what is happening in the world, always trying to understand what is going on. I like to observe and I discuss everything in my head. My mind is always working. Always. Even when I sleep. I think people around me don’t really know what I know about them and how I understand them, because I am always acting like a typical average person. Maybe I am. I don’t know. But I do know that there is always more going on in my head than other people can imagine. I just adapt very quickly…I love being surrounded by beauty. I enjoy watching the sun set and I thrive when I can have deep conversations about meaningful things. Sometimes when I feel really comfortable, I can show my crazy and intense self, too. These moments are rare, though…”

We love your “crazy and intense self,” Lieke.

The world needs you. And all of its deep divers.

Wherever you may be.


To my bloggEEs: If you are in the Netherlands, and even if you aren’t, you might want to explore these resources. Femke Hovinga-Tiller runs an organization for the highly/profoundly gifted. Annelie Neuteboom is a therapist for gifted families. And Noks Nauta is a writer and researcher. Do you relate to what Lieke is saying here? Does it help to understand that there is nothing wrong with you if you live your life as a scuba diver? Do you know many water skiers or snorkelers? Share with us what being gifted is like in your country. (here in the comments or in an email to me for a future post) And thank you to Lieke for sharing your experiences. And thank you all for being here.

(Note: Those of you who are fans of Barbara Sher’s work, know that she refers to divers and scanners in her book Refuse to Choose. My reference to diving is not what she is talking about. Using her definition, RFMs are both divers and scanners. The book is a good one for multipotentialites!)

(Another note: If you are feeling particularly overwhelmed right now by the pandemic and general upheaval and uncertainty, here is an older post that might help. And here’s another.)


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.

23 responses to “Gifted In The Netherlands”

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  4. Maria Avatar

    As a child I wondered if it was possible for people to see other colors while we have been taught to call them the same.

    Now I have a daughter who asks questions like this. She has been tested and turned out to be exceptionally gifted. Two traumatic experiences later (school and hurricane) she appears to score about 13 iq points less on a test. I don’t care about the test outcome itself, I care about what trauma has done to her. It’s hurtfull when people say “be glad she’s not THAT gifted, she will have less problems”

    Her younger brother (she is 10 and he is 5) seemed to be just as gifted (intense, autonomous, creative and fast learning). After Hurricane Irma (Sint Maarten), however, he was falling behind in his speech and did not test gifted. I know there are people thinking “it’s okay if he’s not gifted”, but I feel so misunderstood when somebody expresses that opinion. I know in my core that he is a rainbow, while others see one color.

    The problem here in the Netherlands is, that almost nobody really understands exceptionally gifted kids (or adults for that matter), certainly not when they’ve experienced so much in their young lives.

    Deepdiving is absolutely beautiful, but also very lonely and quiet.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It’s such a blessing for your children, Maria, that they have a mom who understands and appreciates them just as they are. You might want to contact Femke (see the link in the post). Her organization is specifically for exceptionally gifted.

  5. Thuisonderwijs | Unschooling Avatar
    Thuisonderwijs | Unschooling

    Great to see you share stories from around the globe! I have a Dutch blog about homeschooling, unschooling and sharing out loud about how to unschool your (gifted) children. it is a personal blog that I am transferring into a community called Learn from the Heart.
    It is quite difficult being gifted in the Netherlands, as the word itself is still a taboo, and a reason for others to leave you, family or not.
    … There is a LOT of work to be done… my blog is

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      There are many homeschoolers and unschoolers here in N. America as well. started as a homeschooling site and has now expanded into a larger community.

      1. Thuisonderwijs | Unschooling Avatar
        Thuisonderwijs | Unschooling

        Yes, I know them for a while, it is absolutely a great gift and it is primarily American or English oriented. I hope I get our European Homeschooling Foundation in gear, so many languages in Europe. So much to do! It is sad that unschoolers are invisible, because of all the trouble they get into if they just live their wonderful unschooling lives.

  6. Cara Avatar

    The problem is that « normal » people don’t wait for us. They don’t need our deep thinking. And they don’t want to know if you know better that them. It’s just exhausting to try to seem normal and refrain at all time, because if not, they stare at you as if you are weird. Really I don’t think most of RFM’s are feeling that they can bring something to others, except maybe some who have found there place. But for others, like says a good french counselor and writer like you who write about « those who thinks too much », Christel Petitcollin, we, RFMs, live in a 3d world while others live in a 2d one, they really can’t understand us. So, we are alone and can’t be usefull for them. That’s what I feel.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for sharing, Cara. Sending you hugs. <3

  7. Sherry Avatar

    Lieke: “I like to observe and I discuss everything in my head.” Yes! Yes! YES!! The conversations in my head because no one around me would understand or care. Thank you, Lieke for another bit of understanding myself. Thank you for reaching out to Paula and her followers. All of you help me understand.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Glad to have you here, Sherry!

  8. Someti Avatar

    A bit off topic, but: I love scuba diving! (both, in the figurative language that Paula used here, and in the actual meaning of the term). 🙂

  9. ewabs2 Avatar

    Also Dutch and the thing I guess/think is the problem is the very very very strong tall poppy syndrome. just act normal then you are crazy enough( doe maar gewoon dan doe je al gek genoeg). mentallity.
    anything that isnt “normal” is scary/dangerous/crazy/ anoying and should be distroyed to keep peace.
    But at the same time, nobody will tell you what “normal” is. So for me it is constantly hit and miss. Sometimes I manage to be normal enough and sometimes I go way over the norm and as kid that ment being ostricised ( spelling sorry).
    Not getting invited to birthday parties because I was “weird”.
    even now at 50 when at a comic con like place I am to much of a Geek for the Geeks doing cosplay.
    so even for the weird people at the do weird place I am to weird at times.
    All my life I just wanted the how to manual that clearly everyone else had. WHY didnt I get that manual, I am smart I would have learned what to do and even more what not to do.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I have heard from a few of the “Dutchies” that expression. Interesting what you say about Comic Con. I do suspect that there are differences in these different types of gifted. Possibly some of the “geeks who do cosplay” types wouldn’t quite relate to RFM types. As usual, it’s complicated. The different RFMs wouldn’t all fit well together, either. Maybe the key is that you understand and love the complicated person that you are and then seek out like-minded souls who are “normal” for you!

      1. ewabs2 Avatar

        I try, but since both me Lieke and most other Dutch RFM types are trying to act “normal” we are hard to find. Very hard to find. the ones bragging about being so smart usually are not very RFM. And the RFM are in hiding. even the local libraby isnt a safe place anymore.

        1. Someti Avatar

          That’s so true!
          But, when I am with my close friends, I allow me to be myself. So my friends know who I am.

          In practical terms, this means that: 1) I cannot tell if someone is RFM or not just by looking at their face. I have to get closer and know them. And 2) I trend to think that if one of my close friends (those who know that I am “different”, even if they do not know what a RFM is, or even if they do not link that kind of “weirdness” with giftedness), if one of these friends ever gets to know another RFM, they would probably tell me (well: to be honest, I am not sure of this… but I think it may be… if they notice, as we RFMs are sometimes hard to miss).

          Anyway. Those are just my thoughts. Maybe I’m wrong… however, a friend of mine once said me something like “Jesus! You’re weird! Welll, but, you know… in the good sense of weirdness”. 😂 (so, he did not associate my weirdness with giftedness, he just said that I am weird in a “nice way”).
          Another friend told me: “You’re hard to miss”. (someone I worked with, so someone who ended up knowing me pretty well, as a friend would do).
          And I think that kind of reactions from other people supports the ideas above.
          What do you think?

          1. Paula Prober Avatar
            Paula Prober

            I think we all might need to understand that weird in a rainforest-y way is pretty wonderful, Someti. Yes?

            1. Someti Avatar

              I think so 🙂

        2. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          That’s interesting, isn’t it? If you are hiding by acting “normal,” other RFMs might not find you!

  10. Mercedes Campos Avatar
    Mercedes Campos

    Yes, Paula, I do also relate to the description Lieke makes of herself. Life is intense for me, even if I try to slow things down, to take it easy, to take it down a notch or two, I cannot do it, I pretend I can, but in reality I am just screaming to be me. I got told off this week as well: we cannot handle this sudden moves of your pendulum. How come friends, good friends, want me to be someone I am not? Why act as they want me to be? I am too much. Well, yes and no. For them I might be, for me I am. That, this, me. Intense, empathethic, crazy at times, sensitive and emotional, and noticing always the gestures and microexpressions on faces that speak to me louder than words…

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh yes, those microexpressions! Thank you for being here, Mercedes.

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

      You might gently remind them that these qualities are features not flaws. That the qualities are rare and of tremendous value. If they prefer not to experience them, that’s ok, but it’s like going to Disney, buying a ticket and then sitting in the car. (Feel free to substitute your own comparison that suits your life, while describing to them they are missing the best part of you.)