Exceptional and Profound Giftedness In Adults — What Does It Look Like? Why Should We Care?

photo courtesy of naveen kumar, Unsplash

Diya, 35, was struggling with anxiety, career decisions, graduate school, and loneliness. She left a prestigious professional school in the final year because it was too rigid and restrictive. Professors and other students ridiculed her and left her feeling embarrassed, particularly when she asked penetrating questions. At times she felt compelled not to ask questions or even go to class because she did not want to stand out. When she contacted me, she had recently graduated with a more open-ended degree from a different prestigious university where she had hoped to find intellectual freedom, deep human connections, out-of-the-box thinkers, and most importantly, people like herself. This school was more open to her creativity and needs for a flexible, interdisciplinary approach but she was still disappointed with the restricted and inadequate levels of intellectual opportunities and the conformity of many of the other students.

It became clear as we talked, that Diya was exceptionally, probably profoundly, gifted. Her interests were many and varied and she excelled in all of them, ranging from the sciences to languages, religion, and the fine arts. Her speech was fast and her thinking faster. She struggled with repetitive tasks and was often forgetting things because her mind was constantly reading and processing new information.

Diya felt a lot of pressure from her intensity of thought and worked best independently in a non-structured environment. Her perfectionist tendencies made it difficult for her to work quickly, and she often felt a lag time between her mind and her body. She had a deep emotional intensity, often feeling emotions that were complex and layered as well as visions and insights that were intuitive and wholistic.

Like many of my clients, though, she didn’t recognize herself as gifted. This may have been partly because she was slower at test taking and at answering simple questions. She did not score well on standardized or IQ tests. With multiple choice tests, she could explain why all of the answers could be correct. When professors asked her to explain her reasoning for a problem, she often couldn’t break down the non-linear jumps or easily explain the patterns that she found. Or it would take too long to respond to a simple question because of all the possible answers, causing teachers to grow impatient or think that she didn’t know the “right” answer. In her mind, everything was related. How could she finish anything when there was always more to consider and how could she determine the right answer when there were so many possibilities existing within constantly evolving frameworks? She was always looking for better models or better words to respond to the questions. At the same time, she was a high achiever in school and was able to build friendships. But the relationships were not satisfying. People could not keep up with her and she often found herself speaking on a different wave length and not being understood. 

Diya loved the fine arts, including performing music and dancing. She found pleasure in learning the Argentine tango because of the depth of connection she could create with the right partner. In the tango, she did not need to worry about her partner getting lost in her verbal complexity. This was an intimate collaboration that was successful and less complicated, unlike at school or in the workplace. She was relieved when I told her that collaborating in general might be difficult because of her facility with grasping and integrating ideas; an entrepreneurial path might work best for her. She thrived in designing her own way and not following others’ directions. She was in the process of creating a startup that would weave together a number of her interests.

Diya’s South Asian background exposed her at an early age to yoga, tai chi, chanting, meditation, and other eastern practices. These were quite helpful spiritually and on a body level, particularly when she felt disconnected and alone. Spiritual practices worked in tandem with performing music to help her stay physically grounded, express her visual mental imagery, and sustain her through her distress around relationships and schooling. 

Diya, had a highly developed sensitivity. She could pick up what her friends and colleagues were feeling, and often knew intuitively how to help them, but struggled with not getting emotionally and mentally drained by the needs of others and with knowing where and how to set boundaries. She was concerned with ethics and justice, within relationships, but also in the larger world where she was driven to make a positive impact. 

As we talked, I could see that Diya was relieved to finally have a “diagnosis.” To have it explained to her that her difficulties with schooling, peers, career decisions, and anxiety, could all be understood within the context and framework of living at the highest end of the gifted spectrum. She finally understood why she felt so different and now could start learning how better to survive and thrive in a world that did not easily reflect her. 

I recommended the research of Miraca Gross. This article from the Triple Nine Society. I suggested connecting with Femke Hovinga in the Netherlands and Sue Jackson in British Columbia. Tom Clynes’ book on the profoundly gifted Taylor Wilson and The Gifted Adult were also excellent resources, along with the SENG organization

Getting to know Diya was an opportunity for me to see, once more, the vast potential of the human mind-heart-soul. This is what gives me hope and purpose. In these times of great uncertainty, upheaval, and change, it is of the utmost importance that we all understand, nourish, support, and love the most evolved among us.

Our survival may depend on it. 


To my bloggEEs: What do you think? How are you similar to Diya? How are you different?  We want to hear from you. Your comments add so much. Sending you all big love during these most challenging of times. And thank you to the client who gave me permission to share her story.

Attention Spanish speakers! I have been in touch with a wonderful RFM woman in Spain who would love to find other Spanish speaking RFMs. Her name is Miryam. You can contact her at midorenedo@hotmail.com. 




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.

61 responses to “Exceptional and Profound Giftedness In Adults — What Does It Look Like? Why Should We Care?”

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  1. Marie Avatar

    God, I relate to this way too much than I should. It feels bad when you’re forced (both internally and externally) to conform to the authorities who just happen to not fit your way of thinking, nor yours to theirs. You could essentially say I’m a cheetah who was never used for actually running fast. Or, well, many of us here. But alas, why should I complain now? Looking straight to the future is the only way to go now.

    Though that is easier said than done. I’ve grew a certain belief in me, namely; The past has at least just as much effect as the present and the future. There’s always two or more sides to everything, it feels. I cannot accept one smallest thing out of the broadest I and others could puzzle out.

    I really enjoy reading your posts. They are genuine and empathetic.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      The past has a huge influence on how we see ourselves, particularly because of how we were raised in our original families. As a therapist, I see it all the time. That said, healing from the past can happen in therapy and through other introspective processes. Thank you for sharing.

  2. smritiarundhati Avatar


  3. Jade Rivera Avatar
    Jade Rivera

    Another great one, Paula! Thank you Diya! You are an inspiration and I’m so glad you and Paula found each other.
    It would seem that if you’re hard wired for expansion, competition in search of extrinsic reward quickly loses its appeal. If it was ever appealing in the first place. As you know, Paula, I’ve had a similar trajectory. Writer, scientist, educator, entrepreneur. I will say that I think the life path of altruistic entrepreneurship hits all the high notes for a PG/HG person. As of now, I am, writer, student, financial manager, coach, marketer, creative director, educator, and more! 

    After reading your post and the comments, I was reminded of the term entelechy. Aristotle’s term from the greek entelecheia. In which our soul is driven towards actualization. An inborn drive to reach our potential. It would seem that PG/HG people have entelechy in spades! 

    A personal Platonic idea, which I’m not even sure is a thing… 

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, Jade. Yes to altruistic entrepreneurship! And entelechy. Good topics for future posts, methinks. Always good to hear your opinions! 🙂

  4. Jen Avatar

    Thank you for this. Struggling tremendously with my own mind and career choices (which have never made me happy) while also trying to parent two gifted kids (10 and 13) with the oldest being incredibly difficult to satisfy in our school district. I feel incredibly alone in these pursuits and feel like I have yet to meet my people with whom I can even talk this through. Thanks for giving me hope that they are out there.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      There are groups for parents of gifted kids on Facebook, Jen. Have you found them? You might find some folks there who you can talk with. One is Parenting Gifted Children. Another is Hoagies Gifted Education Page and their parent group. Hope that helps!

    2. Dr. Dad Avatar
      Dr. Dad

      If your kid is gifted, it can be very hard to satisfy his needs in a public school district. You’re coming up on High School, where in my experience it gets worse, not better, as the degree to which your kid is ahead of the other kids only increases, to the point where they can hardly understand each other, like when your kid is using Calculus to solve problems in Sophomore Physics. Very few districts have magnet schools that can adequately address the needs of gifted kids, especially schools oriented towards math and science.

      My son just started college two years early, and he will be taking Linear Algebra this fall, at sixteen (he took AP Calc AB in school at fifteen, and taught himself Calc C). We don’t have a local high school, public or private, that could meet his needs; he was too far past high school math and science. So he surprised us by completing an application to college early.

      You might consider sending your kid to college early. Look into Bard College at Simon’s Rock. They even have a two-year high school prep program, Bard Academy at Simon’s Rock, where they cover all of high school in two years and then go straight to college. One of the nice things is that they’re surrounded by age peers who think as fast as they do.

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Yes, Dr. Dad. Early college can be a great option. Schools may argue against acceleration claiming it’s not good for the child socially/emotionally but the research says that most kids adjust quite well and excel when they are at a more appropriate academic level. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Diya Avatar

    P.S. I may not have chosen to be this person, but now that I am her, I want to embrace who she is!! 🙂

    1. dw Avatar

      Thanks so much for sharing Diya! It’s brave and inspiring and resonated so much with me. It’s comforting to know there are other PG RFMs out there, having the same sorts of troubles, but trying to embrace who they are and create a reality big enough to fit them 🙂

      1. Diya Avatar

        Thanks so much, dw! You describe the academic system, institutions in general, prestigious/traditional careers, standardized tests, and the majority of individuals who excel at them, perfectly. When I first read about PG RFMs and was able to articulate the multiple levels of complexity I experience on a daily basis, it answered many longstanding questions that I had about myself and initiated a real grieving process, coming to terms with the fact that there really was no way that I could or would truly fit into the systems around me, even though I had tried so hard for so long.

        But now, there’s hope for stepping out of the invisible and locating my space and tribe, which allows for creating a life’s work that actually uses my capacity. I sincerely am looking forward to reading what you and Jessie write for the Third Factor magazine, and to re-reading everyone’s reflections here on their experiences, wisdom learned, and thoughtful questions for the future. Honestly, it is a relief to leave the broken path behind and breathe in a new way that is whole and real and honest. 🙂


  6. Gretchen Avatar

    My goodness yes this resonates. I am RFM, with interest in everything and anything around me (and in me). I have made others tired with this, even though I am a strong introvert, and only relax with people I know well (and then I will talk their ears off about my curiosity). One companion went for a lunch break walk with me and about two-thirds of the way, asked, “You just think all the time, don’t you?”

    My empathy is especially strong, and I will tear up for joy or sorrow – and always in frustration. I feel like everyone and everything is important. I desperately want to be able to say, “THIS is what I should be doing,” or “THIS is what I am especially good at,” but nothing stands out. I am often distracted by new observations and interests, so I don’t finish things often, or at least not quickly. I usually have about a dozen or more things I am involved with, so I cycle through them. I would love to be able to just FOCUS and maintain that, pick a thing and a few hobbies, and relax. But I haven’t been able to, yet.

    At over 50, I realized I am pretty good at most things I try, pretty much from the start. I have an attraction to sciences and logic AND that hypersensitive empathy. I have the (seemingly unusual) ability to correlate completely separate ideas and use them to explain things, improve on things, or chart a new vector of ideas. And I can “translate” concepts I don’t even fully understand by asking questions, and others struggling with the concepts will suddenly say “AHA!”

    That doesn’t really go on a resume succinctly. And I don’t have any idea what types of work I could look for, with all that. It seems like all I want is to learn, and help others, and be kind and fair, and share my enthusiasm about the world and its people. Not a bad thing, right? But kind of weirdly lonely and it doesn’t really make a living.

    I am impressed with the accomplishments that Diya has been able to achieve, and I am glad she has such a good understanding of herself and her abilities. That has been one of the things that has helped me as I try to find “me” in the chaos. Thank you, Paula, and thank you, Diya, for sharing. I feel recognized by your story.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for sharing, Gretchen. And Diya would probably tell you that she is just starting to truly understand herself and her abilities now. It has been a struggle for many years. And, absolutely learning, helping, kindness, fairness, enthusiasm are good things!! But, yeah, there is the resume situation! 🙂

      1. Diya Avatar

        Yes, absolutely! I did not know about PG RFMs until I met Paula. When I started reading more, I thought, “wow, that’s why I’ve been invisible this whole time.”

        The world is just not set up to mirror me and support my needs, and now I’m getting a better understanding of how to accept myself better and create the world that I need. It is hard to accept yourself, if you don’t really know what/who you’re accepting, and Paula helped me understand PG RFMs and see myself so much more clearly.

        I hope this kind of information becomes more readily accessible to others, so they don’t have to struggle through the rough and tough, to the extent that many of us here have. Especially as a woman, as hksounds mentioned, and especially as a young person hoping and longing to find others on their wavelength, as DW and ewabs2 discussed. I’m ok about being “too much” and the ever-evolving conceptual frameworks swirling in my mind, and now I have the confidence that I can not only survive, but also thrive by creating my own reality.

        Thank you so much for your kind words, Gretchen. As you said, I am moving into better spaces and places of understanding. Thank you to Paula and everyone here for being a shoulder to lean on, and I hope this blog can continue to be a space for us to all find ourselves and each other. 🙂


    2. Jessie Avatar

      Gretchen, how did you get into my journal and copy and paste this into Paula’s blog? 😉

      The ability to connect things, once you realize you have it in abundance and other people may not so much, seems to be a core trait for “this kind of person,” whatever you call us. And I’m betting that, physiologically speaking, that’s hard to separate from having lots and lots of cycling interests. How DO we sell this? I’m trying consultancy right now, which kinda works…sorta….

  7. Diya Avatar

    Hi everyone, it is Diya here, and I want to say thank you. I have loved having this unique opportunity to learn from your journeys, insights, struggles, and profound compassion. I hope you will continue to share, and it feels so good to know that there is a community out there of individuals who can relate and “have been there.”

    I wish you only the very best. I’m grateful to Paula and this blog for giving us a space to connect, share, and grow. I hope we can make this world a better place and use our capabilities to brighten the future for both ourselves and others.

    Take care, and lots of good vibes coming your way 🙂


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Hi Diya. This post has certainly generated a lot of interest and sensitive, thoughtful responses. Thank YOU for so openly sharing yourself with us. Many will benefit!

  8. ewabs2 Avatar

    Observer, peacekeeper/broker and helper.
    That are now my enneagram types. And after discussing them with someone also learning about enneagrams yesterday it suddenly made sense.
    As a kid I grew up in a household of chainsaws, with my mom and eldest sister as the biggest ones.
    So my only way to keep safe was observe how their mood was. And then try everything in my power to keep the peace. Sometimes that worked and unfortunately sometimes it didn’t because in general it had very little to do with me. They where just looking for the easiest victim and that was me. I was unable to escape because well, I was a kid. Not a lot of places you can escape to as a 5 year old.
    And it was at about 5 years old that I learned that I could “play” people by giving them exactly as much of me as they could handle. That there was safety in being boring and average. Not sticking out became my superpower. I was as boring as the wall paper. And by observing I knew what they could handle without getting upset or having to look at me twice.
    That has helped me tremendously in school and career, I just coasted thru with grades good enough to pass but not so good that I got any unwanted attention. Sure sometimes it was a subject I liked and all of a sudden I would ace it. Oepsie, then I would be on some teachers radar for a few days or weeks. A few times it even resulted in detention because I must have cheated from someone else, only problem with that was that I had the highest grade in the class so from whom?
    I never got an answer to that question but I must have cheated. So back to being mediocre I went.
    So guess what? Self esteem issues? Plenty. Imposter syndrome? Of course.
    I have spend all my life getting in second or thirth place, so good enough to get where I want to go, but not the best, never the best, being the best is dangerous.
    Now at 50 I don’t want to hide anymore, but I don’t know how to be me, the real me, the total me.
    I might have gotten by easier at school and in my career. But I really don’t think it was worth it in the long run. Because I now have a career that I am not really happy with. My life is okayish but not how I want, I am dissatisfied, what is insane to the outside world because I have everything they would want. But it is not what I want.
    Does that even make sense?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes, it makes sense, ewabs2. And, hey, you’re only 50?? There is still plenty of time to be your authentic self! (remember, I didn’t start this blog until I was 62!!…not that you have to wait that long.) 🙂

    2. Petra Avatar

      It sadly does….

  9. hksounds Avatar

    I do know whereof Diya is coming from. I hope she can find companionship or someone who is at least close to a peer, if that is what she wants. It can be quite a solitary journey. I must admit that the closest I have come was a do it myself project, my daughter. She is smart enough and has the background to understand me and put up with me – to some extent.

    But the road for people in the area of exceptional and profound giftedness is rough and doubly so if you are female. Where a family or teacher might reach out to a boy who is a prodigy in math. There is little for you if you are a girl or focused on literature, philosophy, languages, history, or other humanities. I hope this is less true now than when I was growing up back when they didn’t even have the TAG-type programs and when My daughter was in school, those were far from meaningful, perhaps are even now for those in the top percentile.

    I wish Diya all the best.

    And FWIW, I have been reading about the policy in California to punish the parents of truants, including with heavy fines and even prison – Well, luckily for my poor mother, and me, as I repeatedly missed weeks of school at a time, that was not the policy back then. It took 16 years for me to get a BA. Three more to get a JD. And I got my MFA at age 70.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for sharing your examples, hksounds. I think we assume that academia will be easy for the highly gifted. But it’s just not that simple!

    2. Jessie Avatar

      Wow, hksounds, I want to second what I wrote up above in response to another detailed memoir-like response. I run a little webzine at http://www.thirdfactor.org for rainforestminds and multipotentialites. I would really, really like to share the story of a gifted elder and a woman who has followed such a path. Anyway, if you might be interested in chatting with me or sharing your story, I would love to talk to you. You can email me at jessie at thirdfactor.org, if you’re so moved.

      (And anyone else reading this who has a story of his or her own…I’d love to hear from you, too.)

      Congratulations on getting that MFA, by the way! I’ve got my novel open in another window at the moment, so back to that now….

      (Also: Paula, this post seems to be resonating with precisely that part of the experience that lends itself to sharing very unique life path stories…! I love this so much. Thank you for what you’ve built here!!)

    3. ÅÄÖ Avatar

      It is so nice to hear that someone else has also been lucky with offsprings. That is the best thing right now, that for at least another decade or so, I have someone else living under my roof whom I can understand and offer understanding. The child sometimes thinks I can read their mind because we make exactly the same observations and quick inferences. It is a truly magical connection. And I hope to offer this child the support I lacked by living as a lonely RFM in a small village.

  10. Someti Avatar

    Thanks for this post, Paula! Once again, I resonate a lot with many of the descriptions here.
    All the best! 😄

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Did you see the email address from the woman in Spain, Someti???

      1. Someti Avatar

        I did!! and I sent a short message 🙂 Thank you so much!

  11. Petra Bunnik Avatar
    Petra Bunnik

    Dear Paula,
    When I read this story, it felt like it was about me… without the Asian background though. I experience the same problems, it even stopped me from finishing my master thesis, for there is too much to tell and the connections to other areas are overwhelming. I can’t put all of that into words without it being unreadable to others. And that has been the feedback given to me, all the time. We don’t know what you mean, this is to broad, you need to focus on one square millimeter. And that is so hard for me to do 🙁 The system doesn’t fit. Thank you for sharing this. Lots of love from the Netherlands.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It’s so sad and frustrating that academic institutions don’t seem to accommodate the more gifted among us! Sending love back to you, Petra!

    2. Noks Nauta Avatar
      Noks Nauta

      Dear Petra, Do you know the IHBV in The Netherlands? You can find a lot of resources on our website. We are also planning to make a separate page about high giftedness (‘over 145’, but there is no consensus on the terminology and IHBV is open for anyone who is interested).
      You may also be interested in the Triple Nine Society? I am a member myself.
      When you live in Bunnik, I live quite near (Zeist).

  12. odileastrid Avatar

    Hello Paula,
    My name is Odile Astrid from France. I subscribed to your blog many years ago but it’s the first time that I comment.
    First of all, thank you for providing all this information to us and your expertise. It is very helpful.
    Thank you for the links you gave in this article, I just went to the ‘InterGifted site, very interesting.
    Being gifted is very challenging mostly when you don’t have any kind of support. Because i always question myself, I’m always looking for responses, I finally found articles about giftness and thank God I understand english because in France… The subject is not dealt with in depth. Professionals focus more on IQ.
    I met a lady several years ago who has a completely different approach, rather similar to yours. She confirmed to me that I’m a gifted adult. I will gladly share my difficult experience with you in the near future .

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for commenting, Odile Astrid. I would love to hear more about being gifted in France when you want to share.

  13. dw Avatar

    Wow, thanks Paula, this is a touching post.

    Diya poignantly illustrates an issue that I think all g/RFM folks face, but which I suspect becomes particularly thorny at the g+ end of the spectrum. So, you ace the GRE/IQ test/whiteboard interview, whatever, and get into that graduate program/international society/high-profile tech startup. With mounting excitement, you say to yourself: Here I am, finally. The air is thin, and only people like me can live here. I can reasonably expect “intellectual freedom, deep human connections, out-of-the-box thinkers, and most importantly people like me”, since they are guaranteed by institutional context, right? Context has done the filtering for me.

    The fallacy, I think, is captured by words like “rigid”, “restrictive” and “conformity”. In my experience, institutional filtering selects for people who will fit in, who want to fit in, and who are good at fitting in. To make things worse, prestige tends to rigidify; if you are the model, you don’t have much of an incentive to change! So, there is typically a well-defined program and you are expected to get with it. Who passes through the filter into this rarified atmosphere? Often, people who are very hard-working and very gifted. But they are not necessarily RFM. In fact, the most successful people – according to institutional logic – are often the least RFM! They are gifted at achieving. This is no mean feat, but as you’ve pointed out before, giftedness does not imply high achievement, and in many ways, being RFM probably anti-correlates with achievement defined institutionally. One example is “breaking” IQ tests by (justifiably) answering “all of the above”. It also reminds me of the famous barometer anecdote, where a physics student (possibly Niels Bohr?) comes up with every way of measuring the height of a building with a barometer except the “correct” one (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barometer_question). I think most tests are susceptible to this sort of pulling apart at the seams by RFMs who care about what’s true, or beautiful, or provocative to their multiply connected brains, rather than doing what’s expected. And because of this, I imagine most g+/RFM/multipotentialite folk have to make up their own context. No institution will do it for them.

    To give an example: I’m in a selective graduate program in a very, very competitive scientific field. I hoped this would be a good place to meet “like-minded” people. Instead, I am surrounded by hard workers and gifted achievers, with whom I generally have cordial but shallow relations. Why? Because when I say I’m going to learn Old Norse over my break, or mention a curious Wittgenstein quote, or show them the Cornellian arrangements of rubbish that so tickled my sensibilities, they literally don’t know what to say. Even scientifically, there is a big difference. Many of my peers live by within a narrow, institutionally prescribed set of technical interests. This will help them succeed, sure. But I’m scientifically curious about everything! Unapologetically displaying that curiosity – about bacteria, celestial navigation, time travel, whatever – is another conversation killer. It’s not about a giftedness gap (though that sometimes plays a role), but more about the “RFM gap”, if you like. I don’t want to play by the rules, or get with the program, or use the barometer in the obvious way, and that confuses people who are where they are because they play by the rules so dang well.

    So, long story short, I know exactly what Diya is talking about!

    1. Petra Avatar

      Wow, thank you for your contribution as well, sheds a new light on things for me. Thnx! <3

      1. dw Avatar

        My pleasure Petra!

    2. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      This is such a great description, dw. Thank you. Diya and others will feel seen and understood!! Always appreciate hearing from you.

      1. dw Avatar

        Thanks Paula! It’s nice to reciprocate that feeling of being seen and understood 🙂

    3. Jessie Avatar

      DW, I edit a little webzine targeting, essentially, multipotentialite rainforest-minds. Paula’s kindly offered to let me search for possible contributors in her comments so — would you perhaps be interested in turning this little reflection into a piece?! The site is at http://www.thirdfactor.org — and you can email me at jessie@thirdfactor.org to discuss / ask questions if you like. Suffice it to say — I related to this!!! I especially liked where you said it’s not a giftedness gap; it’s a RFM gap. I know plenty of people with high IQs who don’t struggle with this. What do we do with this all-encompassing curiosity?!

      I should be working on my novel right now, which has been my top goal in life, but right now I am seized with curiosity about long-term weather forecasting…so I am telling myself that if I write until 2:30 (two hours from now), watching a Yale atmospheric science online course lecture will be my reward. 😀

      1. River Aaland Avatar
        River Aaland

        Yes, the “RFM gap” is spot on!

      2. dw Avatar

        Hi Jessie, it would be my pleasure! I’ll drop you a line.

        Glad you were able to relate to this 🙂 I’ve been trying to understand differences from high-IQ peers, and Paula helped fill in some major lexical gaps. Global curiosity seems like one of the major distinguishing characteristics, as does multipotentiality, e.g. writing a novel and learning about meteorology for fun 😉

    4. River Aaland Avatar
      River Aaland

      DW, I feel this so much! I too believed that if I could only reach certain realms (such as grad school) I would find “my people” and finally belong. Like you, this was disappointingly not the case. Even the intellectual connection felt thwarted, when I’d show up as the only person who did all the readings and could even engage with the professor. I’d quickly leap from idea to idea, connecting dots, thrilled to be finding patterns, only to see my fellow students disengaged and most of the professors irritated and misunderstanding me.
      The rigidity and conformity of school and work environments don’t allow for the full expression of who I am. People don’t know what to do with me. To survive I’ve learned to be strategic, finding ways to have people think my ideas are theirs, planting seeds that I know will take years to grow, apologizing for things that weren’t mistakes. Because I lead in an atypical way bass on building strong supportive relationships that empower my colleagues or trainees, the subtle work of idea-generation, long term visioning, and building up capable employees becomes almost invisible. Meanwhile colleagues with intense ambition but little creativity or vision ultimately become more successful; I think they are seen as less challenging, easier to understand and plug in to the framework.

      I think I threaten and confuse people with my constant and diverse curiosity and unwillingness to settle. Combined with strongly held values and a deep desire to connect meaningfully, I find myself often lonely (not helped by the current isolation of the pandemic!). Anyway, all of this to say, bang on DW and Paula. This spoke to me.

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Thank you for these details, River. You will inspire others to share.

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          And River, Jessie (see above) might also want to hear from you…

      2. Jessie Avatar

        Yes, River, what Paula said! I would love to hear from you. jessie at thirdfactor dot org.

      3. dw Avatar

        Thanks River! This is a beautiful if painfully familiar description: from your curiosity and “unwillingness to settle”, to feeling “thwarted” and different from your peers, to the odious necessity of strategizing *around that difference* in order to “plug into the framework”. It shouldn’t be have to be like that!

        But one of the things I find comforting about Diya’s story – and Paula’s blog more generally – is that it helps me to see that these are the result of *differences*, not deficits. The deficit hypothesis has its advantages, e.g. if you can just fix the deficits, maybe people will see us, but it has disadvantages as well. In particular, it’s not based in reality! The difference hypothesis suggests that, instead of changing ourselves, or trusting in the magic of institutional context (which is unlikely to work once the nature of the difference is taken into account), we need to make our own context. It’s not easy, but much more likely to succeed! I wish you – and everyone else facing this strange dilemma! – the best of luck in making that happen 🙂

  14. Paula Prober Avatar
    Paula Prober

    Thanks, Stef. I worked with the client on this so I could get the “issues” described as accurately as possible.

  15. Stef Avatar

    Such a powerful description of the “issues,” Paula… and how others in the world respond to those who can’t fit their minds into the normal and expected boundaries.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      You know Stef, I ought to tell Diya about you and your writing! You focus on PG folks. Do you want to share links here to your blog and articles?

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Here is one of Stephanie Tolan’s more well known articles from her blog. https://www.stephanietolan.com/is_it_a_cheetah.htm

  16. achristianspeaks Avatar

    I feel like you were talking to me! ??. I read this post after I had given my supervisor my 2-week notice without another solid job lined up…so thank you for the encouragement and understanding ???? – awesome timing ?? Sincerely, Anne

    Get Outlook for iOS ________________________________

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m glad to help, Anne!

  17. Jessie Avatar

    Paula, I was literally just sitting on the couch tearing up about career paths and many of the issues you mentioned in here and then I came in here and found this nice, friendly frame to put on it, rather than “flake who can’t commit.” I have heard all you wrote here before, of course, but it’s still nice to have a reminder that others out there struggle with these things, and this one came at such a moment that it felt like a message from Above.

    At the moment, having qualms about the writing field in general, I have this strong desire to go back and do STEM — specifically, atmospheric science. I always did well in science and math but I’d have to *prove* it again and it would be expensive and time consuming. Anyway, thanks for the reminder that other people also struggle with these sorts of things. Well, I won’t be deciding today; right now I’m just feeling the feelings of all the possibilities in the world, and how we can’t do everything, even though the grass is very often greener on the other side….

    (And whether I do it or not — I always remember your example of someone who changed career paths in her late 30s, too!)

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes, in my late 30s I went back to grad school for my counseling degree and started the practice at 41. I didn’t start blogging until I was 62!! And my first book came out at 64. So you have plenty of time! 🙂

    2. Louis Avatar

      I did a phd in atmospheric sciences in my late 30’s. It was a good idea. I can provide a feedback.

    3. itssue42 Avatar

      Just finishing my 2nd MS now in data analytics; 1st was in wildlife biology 36 years ago. Always, always time to switch careers and very satisfying too — all careers share some cross-discipline commonality 🙂

  18. Pär Hermansson Avatar
    Pär Hermansson


  19. steveharper2 Avatar

    Hello there!
    I’m Béla with a rainforest mind from Hungary. I wonder if there are any other fellow members from Hungary here? 🙂
    This is a lovely story, I’m trying to find other rainforest minds too and help them as best as I can.
    Best wishes,
    Béla 🙂

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      If you want to hear from other Hungarians, Béla, consider leaving your email address here. I screen comments so I think it’s pretty safe. Maybe tell us more about yourself, too?

      1. steveharper2 Avatar

        thank you, Paula! I’m a late replyer, but here is my email: mr.bela.balogh@gmail.com. I am Bela, 27 years old, I work as a Japanese private tutor and I design websites. In my free time I play video games, sing and play songs and make music in general. Another thing is I love to draw and I would like to get into web design some day. I think I have a rainforest mind, and it takes a lot of effort for me to narrow down on one of my hobbies or even profession. One time I started learning programming and coding, it lasted for 3 months instead of 6 months and I didn’t become a developer or a programmer but I learned a lot. It was just not suitable for me, I tend to focus on a lot of things at once. I struggled with adult ADHD, but it’s getting easier to manage now, thank god! I have my own website on infpmuse.wordpress.com, take a look or contact me if you think you are a rainforest mind too! Best regards to everyone here! – Béla

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          I hope you get some responses, Béla.

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