A Gifted Multipotentialite in Germany

” At 19, I was so, so utterly lost. I had no idea what to study in college, who to be, what to do. Everyone else felt like by choosing a major, their life was taking shape and finally starting for real. I felt like by choosing, I had to accomplish the impossible.”

Luisa is now 26. She wrote to me about her struggles in school trying to decide what to study when she had so many interests. “I have basically been having a recurring existential crisis over what subject to study, who to become. How for years, I have been working on maybe, somehow, some day, not being devastated about not being able to become everything I could see myself becoming one day. I wanted to study: chemistry, physics, mathematics, music, Latin, philosophy, medicine, psychology, writing, and so much more…”

(photo brooke cagle, unsplash)

She did not know she was gifted until a college counselor suggested she take an IQ test. The result put her on the road to reading everything she could find about giftedness.

“I was struggling to think of myself as gifted because I didn’t fit the idea of it that I carried with me. I did have many friends, I was sociable, kind, I enjoyed watching soccer, taking walks in the woods, drinking coffee with my friends, shopping for nice dresses–in short, I was nothing special. Of course at the same time, in many other ways, I was an absolute weirdo. But I disregarded that fact when thinking about who or what I would have to be to fit the gifted criteria.”

It took a lot of research to convince her. She wrote to me that finding out about rainforest minds changed everything. “…sometimes I felt like you understood what’s going on inside my brain better than I did. Things, little by little, started to make sense…”

Luisa began to be more self-accepting as she was able to see she was not alone, that her struggles were due to the complexities of her rainforest mind, particularly her multipotentiality. But she continues to grapple with career decisions and the pressure to choose one thing, her worries about the roads not taken, the what ifs, “this raging desire to go somewhere else, be something else, be everybody or, even better, be nobody.” She expressed gratitude for her good life. But the multipotentiality frightened and exhausted her.

“…In so many other aspects of my life, I am so perfectly fine with my oddities, intensity, and my rainforestmindedness. I have friends who I love and who love me. I have played all the instruments, learned all the languages, hitchhiked through Scotland, Sweden, France and Spain, slept out in the wild, laid naked in the sand of the Cote Catalane. I have tried my best to not beat myself up over not being perfect and I think I’m doing good. I like who I am. But these doubts about my profession, my choices, being a doctor or pharmacist or psychologist…See people often say that it’s not true that once you decide on a major, you have basically made a career choice you can’t revise. And I know how they mean it, I know of the many possibilities career paths offer these days. But it’s also a bit true that there are things you won’t be, can’t be, then…But to me, it’s the one big thing I can’t come to terms with…I am tired of being frightened that I may look back on this stage of my life later on, thinking, I wish I had made different choices. Tired of being mad at myself for not being able to enjoy what I have, what I am doing, rather than be stuck pondering all the things I am not. …”

So, I told Luisa– All of the rainforest-minded multipotentialites around the world are nodding their heads in solidarity. They are crying with you over the distress. They are grieving with you for the choices that they had to let go of. They understand the exhaustion and the fear. And yet, they also know that there is time to follow many paths and each one will have its own rewards and pitfalls. They know that in today’s world, career changes are expected; particularly among the more creative. And along any of the career paths will be options for hobbies and side projects, new music to play, beaches to lie upon, travels to take. (Many of these multipods are in the Puttyverse.)

I also suggested that Luisa start a meditation practice where she imagines she meets an inner advisor or a spiritual guide or her future self. That she learn to tune into her deeper knowing, her intuition. Maybe she writes in a journal or walks in nature. But she builds her ability to tune into herself to aid in her decision making. What does her inner advisor want her to know? What path opens her heart right now? It may take some time to learn to listen. But the process is a powerful one.

And, finally, I wondered with Luisa, if what might be most important, is who you become. No matter what you choose and how often you change career paths, the person you become is not dependent on your careers. You get to decide who you are regardless of the many paths you take. And maybe you are her, already. You are Luisa. The deep thinking, highly sensitive, seriously creative, endlessly curious, big-hearted, constantly seeking, glorious human.

And that will never change.


To my bloggEEs: Let Luisa know how you relate to her struggles in the comments. And thank you, as always, for your sweet, smart sensitivity. By the way, I so appreciate the emails from those of you sharing your experiences with love and partnering. See this post for details. I also want to hear from those of you who are happily single or are single and seeking partners. It might even be therapeutic for you to think about this and write about it. So, write to me! paula@rainforestmind.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.

26 responses to “A Gifted Multipotentialite in Germany”

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  1. Gifted In Serbia | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] Spain, Brazil, Malaysia, Belgium, Chile, Lebanon, Netherlands, Canada (via Cameroon), Portugal, Germany, and India. I would love to hear from those of you in countries not yet on this list, although, of […]

  2. Rich Avatar

    I am an advocate of Ira Progoff’s work… both the Journalling and Process meditation. Highly recommended! @Paula your advice would be found in his texts.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, yes, Rich. I have had a couple of Ira Progoff’s books and love his in-depth journaling processes. Thank you for reminding me and sharing with us.

  3. Unschooling - een leven lang leren Avatar
    Unschooling – een leven lang leren

    That is so me! I send a big hug to all Luisa’s out there and I am glad she found out at a relatively young age. Thank you as always for your wonderful words of wisdom.

  4. Marlo Avatar

    But she builds her ability to tune into herself to aid in her decision making.

    A couple of video recommendations here, which hopefully might offer some insight:

    – Make God the Center of the Heart – Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji – Parmarth Niketan

    – Practical Grace · Swami Chidbrahmananda – Vedanta Society of Southern California

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for these suggestions, Marlo.

  5. clignett Avatar

    Thank you, Marina! Yes, I’m getting there. Not quite well, sure as day and night not the same person I was, but I’m getting better and better at accepting that and enjoying the person I am now. That took me a long time, really..
    Hope you are well and happy!

    Boundaries are so important, I never knew how important until I really crashed and burned. Everything was gone, even my mind! Couldn’t figure out how to write an email, go figure how very far away I was.. it’s a long and rocky road to come back, but looking back, however strange this may sound, I’m lucky that it did happen when it did. I couldn’t live like that any longer, my body just shut me down. “If you keep ignoring my signs, I’ll give you a sign you can’t ignore! Here you go! Poufff!! Gone, all your strength and wit!”

    And, no, setting boundaries is never selfish. Neither is being happy that you are not alone in such experiences. It helps actually, to know you are not alone. And that there is no shame in it. None whatsoever!

    1. Marina Berts Avatar
      Marina Berts

      We have very similar experiences – keep going, your strength and energy will come back. And even though it’s hard to crawl back, you are now one step ahead of others, which is an advantage. A big hug to you!

  6. Paula Prober Avatar
    Paula Prober

    For those of you wanting to learn more about giftedness in general, particularly about kids and education, a film is being developed that ought to be a game changer. I will write about it in future posts. But if you are curious, here is the link: https://www.thegwordfilm.com/home#synopsis. They are needing donations to finish the film so if you are able, go to the site and you can make a tax deductible contribution. https://www.thegwordfilm.com/donate This film ought to have quite an impact and help all of us be better understood! Thank you!! (I am on the Advisory Board. 🙂 )

  7. clignett Avatar

    Oh, the Famous Question: what will you choose to become in your future life, aka “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” I still hate that question, although I don’t have to think about it anymore, not for anyone else but me. And I do, still.. and still go all over the place! Everything is interesting, everything sounds amazing. Until you actually do it, and it’s boring after a month.
    Especially in a working environment when you are better at it in the one month than the ones who have been working at it for years.
    It’s also got me questions at interviews like “I see that you have worked at such-and-such company for 5 months now. Why do you want to leave and will we be able to count on you for sticking along a lot longer?” Ehm.. Can’t tell them I’m bored, can’t tell them I won’t be bored at their company either.. it’s a conundrum to answer that question! A catch 22! Aaarrrgghh..
    Anyway, the thing is that you have to stay you, in all parts of your road ahead. Follow your path, follow your curiosity, follow your heart. It’s your life, and whether you take a left or right turn, you’ll end up where you’re supposed to be anyway. You learn a lot of (ok, mostly unnecessary but also interesting or funny) things, you meet people who you will or won’t like, but in the end it will bring you to the point you’re meant to be. That’s what I discovered, looking back. So many professions, so many different companies. In the end I got to work with the exact same things I struggled with trying to decide a major for college. It happened to be a combination of all the things I wanted to choose: law, finance, communication, pr, research, teaching, learning, people skills, networking, you name it, it was in my job. And I loved it!
    Downside is that it also broke me, so my advice to you would be to check in with yourself regularly, and learn to set fixed boundaries. Even if it is right up your alley, if it’s too time consuming and too much at the same time, listen to your body. “No” is a perfectly good answer just by itself. I’ve had to learn that the hard way (burned out and completely crashed), so please don’t follow that path..

    1. Marina Berts Avatar
      Marina Berts

      Thank you for sharing, clignett – I recognise myself in your experiences. How comforting to see that I’m not alone in this (am I being selfish now…?)! Indeed, boundaries are so important, as well as saying ‘no’ when it becomes necessary. I hope you are well and happy!

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Not selfish to need others for support and validation, Marina!! Good to have you here.

    2. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      The self care is so important in all this. Right, clignett? Listening to your body is great advice! Thank you.

      1. clignett Avatar

        Yes, self care is really important.
        Especially when you want to do everything at once, try everything, be everything.. and in my case, I wanted to do it myself. Because I could do it faster and with more precision than the non-RFM colleagues.. which I now know is not fair to them either, but at that time.. deadlines to be met, people who were promised an answer, you name it, it was all in the pressure bowl. My pressure bowl, as I saw/felt it.

        So, yes, the consequences of not taking care of yourself are huge. It’s so important to stay in tune with yourself, to take a break and have a laugh, go out for a drink and don’t think about “what has to be done”. No. No. No! First your own health, and then someone/something else. It’s for a reason the flight attendants say “put on your own oxygen mask first, then help others”. Not selfish at all. Logical. 😇☺️

  8. Dagmar Avatar

    I can so relate to this! I hated this question of what I wanted to become because I did not have a clue at all back then.
    I changed careers more than once, working in very different fields, finishing 2 apprenticeships, getting a business school degree, becoming a yoga teacher and most recently starting university.
    I always had this urge to learn and learning is what makes me happy, the experience of change is my reward.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Ah, nice. “the experience of change is my reward.” Thanks, Dagmar!

  9. Kate Avatar

    Oh, this really struck chords with me – I am not able to go into depth right at this moment, but I so resonate with Louisa’s struggle. I still feel it at 42. All I can say is that whatever choices and pivots we make in our career paths, none of it is wasted. It took me a long time to see how my biology and environmental studies degree could lead to my masters in teaching could lead to my current work as a chaplain…. And yet that is what happened. The best advice I received, and I didn’t get it until later in life, was to follow my curiosity. We just don’t know how those pieces will inform the work we do far down the line, but it all contributes, and the FOMO of choosing one path over another – while real – is not reason enough to not take a step forward in a good direction and see what happens. Lead with curiosity and you’re bound to traverse a path that leads to yet more options and yet more sweetness in your life.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Someone once said to me, “Curiosity is my extreme sport.” Thanks, Kate!

  10. itssue42 Avatar

    “And maybe you are her, already…” Exactly!! So beautifully put 🙂

    I so relate; being 16 and charging down paths thinking I had to figure out the right major, the right (everything)…
    And the truth and the beauty is… that “being you” IS the path; whatever else you do is malleable. I wasted so much angst and self-loathing and time dithering, always thinking there were supposed to be right answers.

    The right answer for me took years to accept. It was, and still is, to do what my heart and my brain and my spirit tell me is most engaging and worth the effort at the current point in my life. Have had several different careers and plan to have more. One advantage is that you retain a lot of useful experience from each ‘career path’. And you don’t need to worry about life getting boring, as you’re always learning & exploring. And you can always feel great about focusing on your main objective which is being the you that you decide you want to be, that goal never changes.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yup. Being you. Being the multitudes that are you!

  11. yesiamrevolting Avatar

    I wrote the bit below in my (so far unpublished) memoir, about me over forty years ago. Wish I’d known your work then, Paula!

    “The question “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” made my brain choke and stall. Made black smoke rings puff from my ears. I’d grown up being groomed for college, academia, brilliance. To be a product, not a person. Most of my friends had started college in the fall. How did they know what they wanted to do? I’d gone to registration day three times but never signed up, still not able to fathom what a credit was.
    Choosing a major sounded like prison. I’d have to do one thing my whole life and be the best at it. How lonely. As soon as I got good enough at something for my parents to get excited, I lost interest. Their voices bedeviled my mind. “Your potential, your po-tennnnnn-tiaaaalll…” wailed in my head like some asshole banshee.”

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Sounds like a fabulous memoir! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  12. Lolly Williams Avatar
    Lolly Williams

    When I was 3 or 4 I had a Dr. Seuss book called “My Book About Me” You put your stats in this colorful book. One page was for what you want to be when you grow up. Age preschool-age someone (my mom or sister?) dictated for me. I said “mother.” I wanted to be a mother. It made sense because I played with baby dolls. I was very maternal at a very young age, I guess.

    Later, around age 10 I updated the entries myself. On the career page, I crossed out “mother” and wrote “teacher.” And later I wrote in “Zoologist.” See? Always changing my mind.

    Don’t laugh, but when I was a teen in the 80s I wanted my own apartment. I would have an admin job. Back then it was called “secretary.” Then maybe I wanted to be a bookkeeper, accountant, a paralegal, a medical secretary. I’d wear nice clothes, maybe hosiery! A job involving keeping order, a tidy desk, fast fingers on a keyboard. I took all the office-y vocational classes my high school offered. It’s pretty sad when your only aspiration is to be a “Kelly Girl,” but there it is.

    I got married very young. I became “Mother” just like I had written in that Dr. Seuss book. While raising them I worked part-time at a public school as an instructional aide. I did this for 20 years. It offered a ton of variety. During this time I enrolled in junior college thinking I’d finally figure out what I was going to “Be” with a capital B.

    The thing is, everything was so interesting I could never stick with a major for more than a semester. History major, English Major, Anthropology major, Child Development major, even the anomalous Dental Assistant Major (tried that one twice). Madame Paralegal major demanded some attention but she bored me after a while and I ditched that goal.

    I took so many classes I wore myself out but had fun at the same time. I graduated when I discovered I had acquired enough credits in the major called “social sciences.” “The soft sexy sciences” as one of my political sci professors called it.

    Everything is interesting, everything is boring after 3 months or so. Then I drop it and later come back to it. Like a hummingbird in human form. It’s a pattern, a personality trait. I’ve learned to roll with it. The key to my happiness is choices, freedom, VARIETY.

    Today I am still “Mother” and now “Meemaw” and my schtick is the domestic arts and mixed media art (naturally haha, can never decide on one art medium so do them all!)

    I guess my point of this long response is, I get it. I get it. I still don’t know what I want to be when I “grow up” and I no longer care. The existential crisis is over for me and I am glad. I find the people with various experiences under their belts the most interesting of people. Mark Twain was a writer, a riverboat pilot, journalist, lecturer, entrepreneur and inventor. He probably had a rainforest mind.

    Explore to your heart’s content.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Beautiful, Lolly. Thank you!

  13. soulbridgecoaching Avatar

    More than a dozen years ago, you suggested I do guided writing. And now I have a dynamic and rich relationship with my team of spirit guides. I wish I had been given this suggestion when I was 26. I hope Luisa discovers great personal and professional insights with her spirit advisors.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes, guided writing has been a powerful tool for you! Connecting with a spiritual network and/or one’s own intuition are both quite impactful.

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