Are You Crazy or Are You Just Gifted?

I was talking with a client the other day about her pain and frustration with her colleagues and friends who do not see the nuance, the complexities, the layers, the connections, the subtleties, the intricacies– that she experiences all the time. All the time. And in today’s divisive, angry, not-nuanced environment, she is not sure when to speak up or how to explain her perspective for fear of being misunderstood, ridiculed, or even cancelled.

When you have a rainforest mind, this is your life.

(photo courtesy Bud Helisson, Unsplash)

How do you explain to someone who does not have the capacity to see what you see that there is something else going on, something more, something that matters. Maybe even something beautiful. Or touching. Or astonishing. Or terrifying.

Take the color white, for example. It is obvious to you that the plain old white wall in the cafe is actually sand-beige with a touch of off-white-ecru-yellow-ivory and green undertones. And that is just under artificial light. On sunny days, it all changes. Right? Certainly, it is not just white. And what is white anyway? And what about moonlight? You think, how can they NOT see it. They must be lazy or too distracted or pretending for some reason that perplexes you. But, in fact, it is quite likely that they do not see it.

This is what you need to understand. They just see white. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with seeing white. It is what is actually there in their world. But in your world, there is so much more.

This might be a reason you feel crazy. You think, Of course they see it. They must see it. It is so obvious.

They don’t.

You probably hear more, too. Those buzzing lights. The clunking ice maker in the refrigerator. The expletive leaf blower. The upstairs apartment neighbors who walk with shoes on their wood floors. Your partner chewing.

Not to mention the smells. The perfumes. Air fresheners. Detergents. The oil refinery thirty miles away. Your office colleague’s lunch. Garlic breath. The person who needs the root canal.

Shall I go on?

No? You get the idea? I thought so. You catch on quickly.

Yeah.

What I am here to tell you is that you are not crazy. It is just that your world is larger. Deeper. Wider. Nuanced. Intricate. Complex. Intense. Tangled. Lush. Fertile. Rich.

Kinda like a rainforest.

__________________________________

To my bloggEEs: What are the ways you notice you are different in your capacity to feel, see, smell, taste, touch, intuit, know, experience, and more? Have you felt crazy? Thank you, as always, for being here and for your love, depth, complexity, and sweetness.


Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in counseling gifted adults and consulting with parents of gifted children. The label “gifted” is often controversial and confusing. I use the metaphor of the rainforest to describe this population. Like the rainforest, these individuals are quite complex, highly sensitive, intense, multi-layered, and misunderstood. They’re also curious, idealistic, highly intelligent, creative, perfectionistic, and they love learning. I’ve been an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, and Advanced Development Journal. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, was released in June 2016 by GHF Press and is available on Amazon or at your independent bookstore. 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, was released in June 2019.

55 responses to “Are You Crazy or Are You Just Gifted?”

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  1. Carol Avatar
    Carol

    Yes, I have felt crazy many times! I still don’t understand how most others don’t see/hear/smell/taste what I am experiencing every day and night. I just enjoy it for myself, and share via poetry, which I have written all my life and taught to others. And I try to incorporate it in my music. I think others must believe me to be crazy because I get so very excited about what seems small to others. So much beauty and incredible discoveries. I’m glad I can see/hear/taste/smell/translate them 🙂


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Translating through music and poetry makes so much sense, Carol! Thank you.


  2. laledavidson Avatar
    laledavidson

    Thanks for this. I think this is just generally true for smart people and also people with ADHD.


    1. Carol Avatar
      Carol

      Or with Sensory Processing Sensitivity (that would me)


      1. Unschooling - een leven lang leren Avatar
        Unschooling - een leven lang leren

        Leaf … it was late when I posted the comment …
        Anyway an awesome blog as always. Really happy you reach do many rainforesties.


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

    What a Perfect Photo of the glasses! And yes, leave blowers should be eternally banned.


    1. renovatio06 Avatar
      renovatio06

      Caught my attention right away as well, Unschooling, yes, I agree!


  4. renovatio06 Avatar
    renovatio06

    I just completed a composers’ competition entry for a humanitarian cause (#inplaceofwar) and I’m “plugging” it here, because I think the film’s narrative that we were to rescore might resonate with your followers, Paula, and even exemplify literally in moving pictures what you’re saying here (i.e. the main character, Ellie). If you typed #scorerelief2022 in YouTube you get a list of the entries for this (competition closed yesterday). I kept at it despite major technical and other hiccups because I instantly “fell in love” with Ellie, the girl character/heroine in the clip. Blender Studios have outdone themselves again, I think. Please forgive me for plugging this, Paula. I wouldn’t have done so if I hadn’t thought that it under _scores_ (pun welcome 😉 ) what your post and entire work with clients is about. Enjoy! (mine is under the username wesboundmusic, if you were interested; but really, there are so many more from much more experienced composers/orchestrators, it blows my mind! [hence, I needed to make a firm rule for myself never to watch any other entries until I had completed mine or else I’d have frozen in my tracks with adoration for their work and self doubts about mine…]).

    Other than that: Couldn’t agree more and never knew it until… only a few years ago… So, yes. And yes. And yes, of course =:


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Sounds exciting, renovatio06. Good luck! (Great new photo, too.)


      1. renovatio06 Avatar
        renovatio06

        Thank you, Paula!


  5. renovatio06 Avatar
    renovatio06

    B.t.w. and this may be more to the point: I can’t have the internet browser open with less than 100 tabs. Yes, I know about bookmarking and about tab groups and even shortlists that populate the browser’s launch page etc. But … if it’s in the bookmarks, I might be missing out LOL , right? 😉 24 hours in the day are way too little … 😉


  6. clignett Avatar
    clignett

    Oh, yes!! I have felt, and sometimes still feel, crazy! People just don’t see/hear/feel/know what I do.

    I can talk to birds for example, and they respond! Brilliant, I love it! But when I do that, especially with walking Indie (my Beagle, who is NOT interested at all in birds 🙈🙄🤷‍♀️), and people hear and see me doing it, smiling and enjoying every part of it, talking to Indie “you hear that, Snoops (= nickname)? Birdies respond!”, they laugh at me as if I’m out of my mind.. (Indie looks at me saying “so what? I’m sniffing here, more important things to do than following your conversation with birdies! 🤣)
    The crazy lady talking to animals and “thinking” they respond.. eh.. but they do!!
    I asked a beautiful white duck to lift her ivory crest because she was so gorgeous! And she did! Quacking with laughter! And when I tell that (even when I write this now), I’m embarrassed because not many people believe me. 🙈

    When I was younger, I went with a friend to a wine tasting. I’m not a wine drinker, but she didn’t want to go alone. Ok, I’ll go with you, but I’m spitting it all out, and rinsing my mouth with water every time, just so you know.. At one point the organizer asked us to name the ingredients by smell alone. Eh, no problem! Got them all. The non-wine drinker..

    So, yes, yes, yes and more yes! White is not just white, as are all colors. There’s always a hint of another color inside, especially with different lighting on it. That’s why I have one wall (which used to be the fireplace, but is now closed because the building is too old and the fireplace can’t be used anymore) painted in “summer night time blue in France”. It changes color throughout the day, and I still love it! I hope you can imagine what color I mean 😁!


    1. itssue42 Avatar
      itssue42

      Hi clignett – I am definitely one of those people who totally understand and have conversations with animals, trees and so on. Our brain waves are by no means limited to sharing the same verbal language. Human spoken/written language is really so limiting in what it can convey when a single ‘thought feeling’ can encompass so much richness, depth, detail.
      I sometimes, very rarely, mention to people who know me a bit that a certain thought is going through an animal’s mind, but they always think I’m kidding.


      1. Annette Avatar
        Annette

        I took a couple courses in animal healing (acupressure, massage), but no one told me the animals would send messages. Twelve years of volunteering at an animal shelter provided a lot of communication stories! They see SO clearly that it was very refreshing. You’ve got company! Thanks.


    2. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I am guessing there are many here who also deeply connect and communicate with animals and nature and have experiences like yours, clignett. Perhaps some of them will share here. I hope so! Many RFMs I know are quite intuitive and spiritually inclined. Thank you for sharing.


      1. Carol Avatar
        Carol

        Definitely! I’m certified in Equine Sports Massage Therapy, and have been an equestrian most of my life. Lots of communication stories! I am SO much more comfortable with animals, plants, and my musical instruments than with people. Plants speak clearly, too, just like animals. I can feel trees thrumming with energy when I hug them. It is incredibly healing! Trees always want to help. A tip a learned: stand with feet apart, hands on hips, bend at the waist, face your heart center to Earth. It is instantly calming! Earth energy – super healing.


    3. carolineb69 Avatar
      carolineb69

      Ooooh yes, THAT dreamy, magical, perfect blue… I’m french by the way 😊


    4. ewabs2 Avatar
      ewabs2

      you are not supposed to talk to birds? or other animals? how weird.
      so yes I also talk to everthing or translate for animals. and yes I get weird looks but I by now revel in my crazy animal lady status. and planning to get even worse.


  7. Me Avatar
    Me

    Thank you, this blog was what I needed to read! „THEY CANNOT“…. I spoke to one of my oldest friends earlier and she gave me this look again, telling me that I make things too complicated while I was thinking how can she not understand…. well, she just cannot.

    Of course I talk to animals and trees, I thought everybody does 🙈 and there is usually some form of response / communication. I remember this conversation I had with my dog and a wild rabbit in my garden…. I told the rabbit my dog was nice and would not chase him, looked at my dog and said „you heard what I just said, right? so be nice and let him munch“ , he looked back in slight disapproval but with a sigh gave in and we all happily sat there for a while.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      When you say that you thought everyone does, that happens a lot, too. The RFM does not realize that some of their traits are uncommon and so that is a cause for confusion and often self-criticism. Thanks for sharing, Me.


    2. Marie Lamb Avatar
      Marie Lamb

      I have heard that one so many times ‘you are making this more complicated than it is’… and especially ‘just do it because I told you to’.. which I can’t – not when I can see another way and/or how their way will make problems later (that usually they don’t have to deal with). It gets me in trouble with others who just want a ‘cut and dry’ world and people who follow orders and never do anything outside the box.


      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Our world needs more outside the box thinkers, like you, Marie!!


  8. Ike Avatar
    Ike

    My goodness Paula, thank you for putting in words exactly how I feel and what I encounter in most colleagues everyday. Just yesterday my manager said to me that she had never had someone in my position who was this ambitious. But I don’t know how not to pay attention to all these details and nuances. If I don’t, I feel like betraying who I am. Investing myself in everything I do is my greatest strength (and can simultaneously be a great weakness). Sometimes I wish I could put down the glasses, but then I think about the beauty I would miss out on…


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Don’t put down the glasses, Ike! Thank you for being here.


  9. veroniqz Avatar
    veroniqz

    Yes, yes, always noticing, always feeling crazy and exaggerating… Some people just call it hypersensitive. Anyway, what I need to learn, is keep my mouth shut, I think out loud too often, that’s where I go wrong…😏


    1. clignett Avatar
      clignett

      Hahaha, thinking out loud, that’s what I do too! I just say to people when I realize that they don’t appreciate it “ooops… did I say that out loud??”, most people can laugh about it then!


      1. veroniqz Avatar
        veroniqz

        If I would have gotten a penny instead of every weird look… I’d be retiring by now!😁


    2. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      <3


  10. Jessie Avatar
    Jessie

    I related to this post too, Paula, but I wonder if you can give any thoughts on a more advanced version of this question.

    Sometimes, I know someone else to be a rainforest mind, too. And we both think we’re seeing things this way. But we still don’t see eye to eye.

    In those cases, I always want to hear why the other person thinks the way he or she does. And when they share intellectually, it typically works out well – no problem! Two rainforest minds that disagree but are well-regulated emotionally can work this out. I have managed to maintain friendships with people who see things very differently, even in these polarized times we live in.

    But when people have blocked me for my opinion, they were people who at least thought they were rainforest minds. I think some of them may come from very unhappy childhoods, so maybe a little excess fear of chainsaws, perhaps? And there’s always the possibility that I flubbed the delivery in those cases. But it seems that sometimes emotional activation can shut down all that perception of complexity, even in RFMs. And sometimes we can be seeing different complexities that do not overlap. And sometimes we can make up complexities where actually we are in one of life’s (rare!) simple situations.

    So on that note, I’d love to hear your take on intra-RFM collisons sometime. It’s important to find other RFM friends, but not all the challenges evaporate at that point. (Perhaps relevant to your upcoming book on relationships…!)


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      This is a great question, Jessie. Definitely one for the next book. I think you really answered it. Just because someone has a RFM does not mean that there will be agreement or smooth sailing! There are all of the complexities that add misunderstandings and miscommunications. Certainly, one is childhood dysfunctional family/trauma. Also, emotional reactivity where self-soothing has not yet been learned. I mean there are so very many factors that apply in any relationships. And then the RFM traits are on top of that. So, thanks for the question!


      1. Jessie Avatar
        Jessie

        Thanks, Paula! Can’t wait for your new book. We’ve been getting a lot of requests for articles on relationships (friendship, romantic, and everything else) at Third Factor, too. Such an important topic!


  11. Touching the Dirt! Avatar
    Touching the Dirt!

    Reblogged this on Touching the Dirt and commented:
    I love Paula’s sense of humor!! “…helps the medicine go down”.


  12. M. J. Cuthbertson Avatar
    M. J. Cuthbertson

    Not feeling so much crazy as a constant annoyance with generous helpings of anger. A wee story: Years before I’d heard the word giftedness and several decades before I discovered I was RFM the following brief exchange occurred between myself and the boss at the place I worked for a few years.

    The boss called me into his office and proceeded to tell me that he thought one of the problems I was having was not getting enough work accomplished because I was trying to do things too perfectly.

    I reminded him during my initial interview when he asked me what I felt my greatest shortcoming and problem was, that I had replied by saying I tended towards perfectionism. Additionally, I reminded him that he sort of laughed about it and hired me despite my warning. I summed up by saying, “So, you knew this going in. It shouldn’t be a surprise today.” Then I got up, walked out of his office, and went back to work.

    Curiously, the topic never came up with him again.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      If I could find a thumbs up emoji, I would post it here, M.J. Yeah! 🙂


    2. cmd1122 Avatar
      cmd1122

      Brilliant solution.
      Glad it worked out because some bosses would just fire a person for that.


      1. M. J. Cuthbertson Avatar
        M. J. Cuthbertson

        Yes indeed, always a possibility, but the threat of dismissal at the time was low. It preceded the period of ubiquitous noncompete clauses. So, with the work I was hired for being the same as I’d been doing on my own, I would simply have returned to that.


    3. lackosleep Avatar
      lackosleep

      I had a similar experience. And had to periodically remind them I was “going to be the contrarian, voice of reason, antagonist” whenever I thought it would produce better outcomes – and that they signed up for that, and have reaped superior solutions from me. It worked as a tenuous balancing act for 24 years, and then they fired me for just those reasons at 58 years old. Companies change. I am devastated.


      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Sending hugs and love your way, lackosleep. <3


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

        So sorry for the outcome. It reminds me of many relationships, work or otherwise, when I share with someone what I’m going to do. Then it’s met with surprise and bafflement when I do it. I’m always puzzled by that response. By my way of thinking, I wouldn’t have said I could do it if it weren’t true.


  13. lackosleep Avatar
    lackosleep

    I see color differences that others cannot, and taste subtleties missed by many. But my over excited sensory perception of human communication/behavior is what really makes me feel crazy. I seem to pick up so many nuances and layers when I’m speaking with others while in their physical presence. When I describe what I “heard” I’m called “nuts”, “over sensitive” , etc because they didn’t get the same message. It has proven accurate in my career, and I’ve realized how significant and necessary it has been for me for success, since being isolated and remote during the past two years due to pandemic, and suffering.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It sounds like you might fit the description of an empath, lackosleep. Yes?


      1. lackosleep Avatar
        lackosleep

        Yes. 100%. And it feels like to the over-extent of being unhealthy, as I tend to take the feelings of others as at least or more valid than my own internally generated feelings – even when objectively they have wronged me.


        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          There are a lot of resources out there these days for empaths. You might want to do a search so you can find tools to protect yourself. The Shift Network might be a place to start. https://theshiftnetwork.com/frontpage Or Judith Orloff’s writing.


  14. Touching the Dirt! Avatar
    Touching the Dirt!

    Hi Paula! Posted a comment last week in response to this article and also reblogged it. I hate to use this forum for this kind of inquiry, but I don’t see my comment here. As for our other “peeps” sorry… but there were some good bits in there for you all as well. Paula can you look into it!?


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m glad you asked. I did see the reblog but didn’t know there was something from it to post here. So I think I deleted it once I approved it?? Not sure. You are welcome to put it in a comment again and I will look out for it.


  15. Touching the Dirt! Avatar
    Touching the Dirt!

    Hey Peeps! This is by far the most spooked I have been when reading one of Paula’s posts and your responses. I’d like to think of this as the final frontier of my Gifted/Rainforest life experience! It’s definitely the thing I am most secretive about because we all know they will be sending for the guys in the white coats if they knew we were really “talking with the plants or the neighbor’s dog!! when I go for morning walks I say hello to almost all the trees, except the ones I don’t like for some reason!! Most gifted people are also empaths, so living energy is readily perceptible to us.

    Several years ago, I came across an article by Dierdre Lovecky titled, “Can You Hear the Flowers Sing”!!

    https://www.sengifted.org/post/can-you-hear-the-flowers-sing-issues-for-gifted-adults

    Needless to say, the title would have been enough to help me feel a bit saner, but the content overwhelmed me because at that time I knew so little about living as a gifted adult. I have recently discovered a poem by a similar name by, Jim Yerman! If this doesn’t heal you then nothing will!!

    When you walk in silence in the morning…
    you hear the wind whisper to the trees…
    As the syncopation of the crickets
    Floats upon the breeze.

    Soon the nightingale, the blackbird,
    the owl…and the chickadee
    Begin to sing, as if rehearsed…
    their morning melody.

    Flowers hear the singing
    and, to me at least, it seems
    The music wakes them gently
    From wherever flowers dream.

    Perhaps that’s why throughout the year
    and primarily in Spring…
    If you listen to them closely
    You can hear the flowers sing.

    Jim Yerman

    Thank you all for sharing your life. I hope I can return the kindness!!


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, this is lovely, Touching the Dirt. I definitely did not get this one earlier. Just the reblog. I saw that article by Lovecky years ago and loved it. Thank you for checking. I hope everyone will do that as it’s likely I will miss some comments now and then.


      1. Touching the Dirt! Avatar
        Touching the Dirt!

        Blessings!!


  16. Melvin O. Evans Avatar
    Melvin O. Evans

    Bullseye, Paula. Thanks for the article!


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Melvin!


  17. Nancy Jaye Avatar
    Nancy Jaye

    Thank you so much for this. I am 47 years old, and this is the first time I have ever heard a real answer as to why I’ve always felt like I’m on the wrong planet. To know that others GET it, that it is not only a real thing but actually has a name, and that it could even be a good thing, brings me validation and some peace. Thank you!


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Welcome, Nancy. So glad you are here!!


  18. lackosleep Avatar
    lackosleep

    Welcome fellow alien 🙂


  19. Danielle Falcon Avatar
    Danielle Falcon

    I get this 😆 My husband and I are on very different levels in this regard, which can be extremely frustrating at times.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for sharing, Danielle.

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