“I Have A Love-Hate Relationship With My Own Brain”

You, too? Do you have a love-hate relationship with your brain?

If you do, you are in good company here in rainforest mind world.

It might be because, as one reader said, “sometimes it is really too powerful and goes too fast.”

Or, you have so many interests and so much curiosity, as another reader put it, “…I am so much and so many, so it is difficult to know who I truly am. I don’t want to be just one thing, one person, in only one way, that is very limiting – I need that space in my mind palace. And that becomes complicated for others. So to them, I am just weird and they walk away. I’m too complicated, too sensitive, too inquisitive and curious, too fast, as this highlights their own limits. I always need to slow down, to deal with ‘stupid’ questions and behaviour in the best possible way, and it’s tiring, I admit. And lonely.”

That brain of yours is nonlinear, random, creative, and nonconforming, as in: “…I’m allergic to convention, blend genres, go sideways, prefer to reinvent from scratch, etc, and most colleagues find this scary and unintelligible...”

Or how about this: You grew up with the pressure to achieve in academic settings, to be number one, to ace all of the tests. And some of you did. School assignments may have been too easy but you wanted the approval of parents and teachers so you completed the work and you did excel. But it may have felt empty. Or, I often hear from clients who felt the work was pointless so they lost motivation, stopped completing assignments, and were labeled lazy and defiant. Some of you experienced academic expectations with the added burden of trauma in the family: “I’ve spent a large part of my life chasing institutional prestige. Not because it’s something I intrinsically cared about, but because it was expected of me, and because (not unrelatedly) it reproduced a dynamic of toxic conditional acceptance I had with my father. There is nothing sustaining in that, of course, nothing to feed me; when you are only as good as your last perfect mark, the latest scholarship, you must feed it, and it is insatiable...”

And, of course, there is the empathy and sensitivity that is often overwhelming. Your sense of social responsibility and justice that you can not ignore. Your passion to learn and read every book. Your creative capacity to catastrophize. The despair you feel when you realize your colleagues or your friends or your students or your spouse have no clue what you are talking about when you think you are communicating clearly because you have slowed your pace considerably and they are nodding like they get you, but they don’t. And they can’t.

No wonder you have a love-hate relationship with that magnificent mind palace of yours.

It’s a lot to manage.

And yet, here, in rainforest mind world, you are in good company.

And that’s a no-brainer.


To my bloggEEs: So, what do you think? Do you also experience the love-hate? Tell us about it. And thank you to the readers who are quoted above. Obviously, your comments add so much! Gratitude and love to all of you.

(Note: There is a short introduction to my work that was recently published on this site from the perspective of being a business owner. Check it out.)

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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.

27 responses to ““I Have A Love-Hate Relationship With My Own Brain””

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  1. RL Avatar

    I imagine : Others can only interact with one small slice of me – and they see how incomplete that is, how many holes are in it, how many cracks.. they can see there is so much ‘flaky’ layer to it – but they have no idea that it is only the LCD interface scene, badly damaged, prone to blinking in and out, and portraying only even a portion of the information I wish it did to them..even the ones who care enough to peer at the pixels. And behind it is the entire ‘computer’ but it is made of ropes and weights, pulley systems, balances and vacuum tubes, small men sitting in boxes shouting, ancient inscriptions still being deciphered, birds flying formations, the murmur of rivers and the roar of oceans, composers and painters and philosophers arguing nonstop in a library-to-die-for, numerous adventurers falling into pits of snakes and once in a while the proud student who puts the pen to paper and says ‘Eureka, I have it.. now what was it, and how do I tell anyone if I can’t tell myself?’

    1. pprober Avatar

      Oh my. So, so beautiful. Thank you for sharing this, RL. Many here will be moved. Including me.

    2. Clignett Avatar

      Oh, RL, thank you!! Thánk you! For describing exactly how it feels and works “behind the flaky screen” people see.
      It’s as if you’ve poked around in my mind and brain and found the words that actually describe what’s happening there.. Brilliantly worded! 💖

    3. Sheep’s Wool Avatar
      Sheep’s Wool

      This is lovely, RL.

    4. David Avatar

      I love this RL! It’s a beautifully evocative description, not only of the chaos/richness of the RFM inner world, but the loneliness that comes from not being able to share it. Recently, I’ve been trying to picture RFM “mind palaces” using the magic of AI. With your permission, would it be okay for me to feed your words into the spaghetti machine and share the results here?

      1. pprober Avatar

        I am so glad you are working in the AI field, David. I wonder about where it is heading and get nervous when I think about it getting out of hand. Good to know you are there!

        1. David Avatar

          Thanks 🙂 Definitely a strange time, with things developing much faster than people can understand, predict, or control. But I love the possibilities as well!

      2. RL Avatar

        Yes, David, you can try that. I am also a visual artist and I can ‘see’ all of what I described (and much more, geometry and mechanics and color and sound). Without droning on and on – that was the best ‘picture’ I could paint at the time. But it is still incomplete. I would wonder what the AI would do to fill in the rest.

        I am a synesthete and a lucid dreamer and use my ‘mind palace’ as a visual-spatial nearly-photographic memory map. It’s like the Terminator information menus displaying an entire virtual library of info ‘just outside my actual optical field’ mixed with Cerebro’s ability to spin the globe and pinpoint to a certain time-place-person in the entire world map mixed with Aladdin’s Cave of Wondrous Things (all objects I’ve found interesting, recreated momentarily in front of me virtually so I can look them over), mixed with what Cassandra on The Librarian’s can do with her ‘projections’ of math and spatial things. It is frustrating though – because in ‘real time’ you can only do so much so quickly, and it never becomes exactly as you imagined/saw it happening in the mind palace (unlike Sherlock in RJD’s portrayal of fighting moves) and no one else can experience it with you so you can dream a beautiful dream ten miles wide but still only use these hands and eyes and words to eek it out teaspoon by teaspoon to anyone else, AND that is if they care to listen / look – and we know how fast the world is moving all the time… it’s hard to know what to spend energy on.

        1. David Avatar

          Your head sounds like an amazing place to be RL 🙂 I understand what you mean about the brain producing things faster than the mouth; it’s inherently frustrating, even when people are listening. I love visual art (and dabble myself!) party because of its ability to capture the non-verbal (e.g. the marvellous colour and feeling tones of synesthesia) but also the semantic content of language, in dense and non-linear ways. Of course, art takes even longer to produce than words! If only we could speed the process up.

          Enter AI! The prospect of generating semantically rich “ideograms”, at something like the pace we make them in our heads, is pretty dang cool. I want to paint with my mind, and not my hands or mouth! It’s very very early days, but a fun thing to play around with. On which note, I will see what I can do with your beautiful elaboration below 🙂

      3. RL Avatar

        David – I took a few minutes to think further on what I truly imagined in my mind’s eye for the first image – so here it is. It plays on the theme of many of my visual works that show the skull as ‘Plato’s cave’ allegory. the scene: Two people, a man and woman, stand at the left of the image, on ‘ground’, looking at a huge cyborgish-skull that dominates the entire canvas and seems to rise up out of the ground half-submerged. The man is reading or attempting to read a printout that is coming from a slot, and the woman is peering into a cavernous eyehole, which we see in cutaway continuing to the right. Inside the ‘cavern’ we are taken into what appears to us to be an ant-hill portrayal of multiple chambers. There are five small weighted blockages we see suspended in tiny tunnels above the main tunnel from the eye – that could come down and seal off the tunnel, and each of them is attached to a rope of a different color that all combine backwards to five chambers that each contain a small man shouting while holding onto one of those ropes – and the men are differently aspected to resemble the Five Senses, one has overly large eyes, one is mostly a nose, another huge ears, another a huge tongue salivating on his hands, and the other his hands are huge tentacular spider like things delicately attempting to hold onto the rope wrapped around these fingers. And the men seem to be shouting at each other and bits of paper, colored splashes and ‘techno debris’ (circuitboards, wires, bits and bobs) are travelling between their chambers between them where their information overlaps and is mixed up. Now, above the chamber with the men (who are in the frontal lobe behind the eyes), is the round dome of the skull’s cortex area and it is the Natural Wonder cavern starting with blue sky on one side, clouds, sunset, aurora, rainbows, and starry night sky all sweeping across it, trees bent in the wind, mountains and rivers and oceans, starlings flying in a murmuration, all over a grassland where we can see down to the seeds on the foxtails as well as the leaves of the huge oaks.. and beneath that chamber is the one with the technical library of philosophers and musicians (carrying multiple instruments, and colored like Kandinsky’s sound colors) and artists of many different styles and they are all tangled together in a small space and trying to do their things, young children reaching for books, a few Greek philosophers in a classic finger-up and arguing pose, Freud-like professors digging through filing cabinets to triumphantly hold up papers, all those musicians playing their instruments, a team of young students working out huge math equations, several people painting murals and others trying to paint on pinheads, and everyone is stepping on someone else’s feet and elbowing each other in the nose…and also include the adventurer like Indiana Jones trying to tightrope walk above them all while his arms are wrapped with a python and some large predatory cats are waiting to jump on him from the shadows.

  2. Sheep’s Wool Avatar
    Sheep’s Wool

    This is an excellent post, Paula. That is all I have to say for now, as my body and feelings are celebrating what you have written, but my words have not caught up yet. I have been having little ephiphanies in the last week about embracing my mind, about leaning into and accepting the things I thought were drawbacks (difficulty acing the way the normal world – and normal work-world – works) and my way of thinking that I intuitively feel is tree-like, branching out, and sometimes circular, or spirally. It is weird. And that is good.

    I had also been self conscious and reluctant to lean into the gifted thing – who am I to want to aim higher, or break through conventions? But the odd thinking ways I have, and the difficulty being good at running in the normal working world with its linear processes, and my trailing along not finding work – this led me to think – maybe I can aim higher?

    Sorry for the garbled post. These are just some of my thoughts.

    Thank you so much again Paula, and all of you RFMs.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Not so garbled, Sheep’s Wool! Thanks for the words.

  3. Clignett Avatar

    Yes! A love-hate relationship with my brain.. Sometimes it really goes too fast and ís too powerful, even for myself. I literally shake my head to “release” all the thoughts and paths I can see, just to start over again. This time with more concentration and thoughtfulness (and mindfulness) to my thoughts. Does it help? Yes and no. I get to the same point(s) as before, but slower and more methodical, but it is still the same. I see it all; all the bumps and hoops in the road ahead, which way would be best considering all these bumps and hoops.
    But then the love-hate comes in: explaining this to others.. who do not see all. Who wil just have to take my word for it and trust me. Which is a challenge on its own, especially when they don’t know me, nor my brain..

    A love-hate relationship with my brain in staying quiet to some people who think they can outreason you (illogically, but they can’t seem to see the flaws in their thinking process), while all the time you see right through them. And my brain remembers everything, the exact words, the tone, the context, everything.
    Until I can’t bear it any longer and I will tell them all their flaws in their thinking and how wrong they are in trying to gaslight me (as I feel it, maybe they don’t do this on purpose). It’s lost me some people around me, but in my mind I’m better off..

    Better off, but again a bit lonelier. Having such a “big and powerful and see everything and remember everything” brain sometimes feels like a curse and blessing at the same time. It’s tiring, it’s lonely and it feels like I never slow down enough for anyone to really get me. Not me (as a person), nor what I’m trying to say or explain.

    And losing motivation, ah, another one! Not academically, but simply swimming lessons. In Belgium, at the time we lived there, the swimming diploma’s were too easy. 100m, 500m, 1km, and so on. Always with the extras of staying in place with your fingers above water, swimming with clothes on and diving something or other up from the bottom of the pool. The extras were fun, as was diving (which they didn’t like me doing – flipping backwards and such things), but the boooooring swimming of the meters and kilometers.. I was just shy of one lane for the 1km diploma, and I just threw in the towel. As they saw, “I gave up”, but really I was just fed up and too bored. Couldn’t muster just one lane anymore, was bored for many lanes at that time, and it was just enough. I told them (age 6 or 7) “you know I can swim, you know I can dive, you know I can save myself in the water, and you even know I can save another human in the water (as I’m writing this, memory comes back, had to dive in with clothes on to save another student who was really struggling), so what’s the point in going for meters and kilometers?”. I was being a brat, they said, and shook their heads on me.

    I remember sitting for job interviews, and the question “tell us who you are?” throwing me off my game immediately. Never coming up with the “right” answer, because I’m too much, of everything. Which the job interviewers interpreted as being not enough, just because they couldn’t understand me. Or, even worse sometimes, they thought I’d get bored within a week because the job was so much lower than my intelligence. Maybe they were right, but all I wanted was a “break” from my brain.

    And yes, the despair! Even if I slow down to what I think is Muggle-mind-slow, it’s still too fast. Too much. Too sensitive. Too confrontational. It really is despairing to see that and realize that it will never work for them to understand what I’m trying to say.

    On the bright side, I have an intake appointment for a therapy/informational help with specialists on ASS. This woman I talked to is a blessing! I didn’t even need to slow down! In 5 minutes the conversation was done and an appointment was set! Wow! It does exist!! They do exist!!

    I’ve rescheduled the start for a full examination whether my brain works more on the ASS scale or the HSP/highly intelligent scale many times due to too many things going on privately, but now we’ve agreed to skip that, and just see what they can do to help me find ways to not feel constantly overwhelmed and misunderstood. And maybe get a better view of myself, a more complete view.

    Maybe that finally gives me the confidence to re-do the MENSA test and accept their invitation. As Brett mentioned of her father, I too have declined their invitation once, but am having second thoughts about it. Maybe it’ll be good for me, who knows..

    1. pprober Avatar

      Clignett, is the ASS scale the autism spectrum scale? I hope it all goes well. Glad you had a very good first experience.

      1. Clignett Avatar

        Yes, sorry, the ASS scale is the Autism Spectrum Scale.
        I know I could have a form of Autism (Asperger’s), but possibly it’s hiding between the HSP and highly intelligent traits as well. And all that combined with the spirituality gifted traits, it’s a complicated brain to examine..
        With all the trauma from early childhood until now, it’s not easy to trust. Not even myself, for that matter.
        Plus, if the therapist is not a good match, I shut down completely, automatically. I can try to open myself up again, but it will be superficially..
        Thank you! It really made my day!

    2. M Avatar

      If you qualified on the Mensa test once, you should be able to join with that score – no need to retake the test!

      1. Clignett Avatar

        Unfortunately Mensa doesn’t keep records from scores, M, I checked with them already. The procedures have changed also.
        So now I would have to do the home test first, wait for the results, and if they think I’ll be qualified to take the complete Mensa test, you’ll get an invitation to take that test at their location (a day long testing every aspect of your intellect, measured in percentiles). If these results are within their range, then you can join Mensa. It’s a whole procedure now to get to that point.

        The first time I wasn’t in the right mind space to take the whole test. The home test was a relaxing thing I did to unwind from a particular heavy board meeting 🙈🤣🙄. Took me about 20 minutes and then I went to bed 😆. Shook me to the core when I got the results back with their invitation to “please take the time to come and take the complete test and join us!”.

        1. M Avatar

          Ah, you did the home test last time. Must have been a stressful meeting for that to be relaxing in comparison! 🤣 Congrats on the score! If you could do it one time, I’m sure you can do it again!

          Where I live, you can do a home test if you want (which means waiting for mail), or you can just sign up for a full test. You can retest every 12 months if you don’t qualify the first time. I might bite the bullet and sign up for the test at some point, as I did well on the online questions, questions in a magazine, etc. After I started copying their question formats and making up a mini-test on my phone, inventing my own style of word puzzles, and buying a box of logic puzzles because I kind of missed the questions, I thought, “You know what, it’ll be funnier if I don’t qualify than if I do!”

          Good luck with the therapist, and with the testing if you go forward with it!

          1. Clignett Avatar

            Oh, I should check if it’s an option here, too, to do the full test without the home test first! That would make it a lot easier and less stressful! 😃

            For me the trickiest questions are the ones with the “mathematical logic sequences”. Sometimes I see it right away, other times I completely miss it.
            The 3D thinking is logical for me, I can flatten an object in my mind and make it whole again, turn it around, flip it inside out, and so on. Word puzzles equally logic, probably because words have different meanings to me, even if they are supposed to be synonyms. There is a difference in “heaviness” for me.

            Oh, yes, that board meeting! It took about 5,5 to 6 hours, boring as a snooze.. late afternoon start, around midnight end.. frustrating, because no one agreed with one another, and no one was willing to listen to the other. At one point (near the end) in one of the many discussions I just stood up, took my phone and cigarettes and left them to it. One by one they came to me on the roof where I was sitting and smoking and apologized 😇🤣! They were a good and kind bunch of smart men and women, but, god.. stubborn as hell when it came to agreeing on something.. so I really needed to unwind from that meeting! 🤣🤣

            Thank you! And good luck if you decide to go for the full test! You’ll probably do better than you thought on beforehand!

  4. hksounds Avatar

    I have neither. of course, I have to be different; how could it be otherwise. I have a healthy respect for my brain, but am wary of it as well. I see how our brains have a tendency to curve back on itself, making itself the center of all. I see that our brains are steeped in narcissism and hubris, and if we are not vigilant, we too will fall into one of its myriad traps that keep people inside their heads, eschewing the world. Having a love/hate relationship with our brain is one of those traps that draws our attention to it, and away from who we truly are, which is that we are deeply connected to nature, and life in all of its manifestations. This reality is anathema to far too many who would destroy others because what is in someone else’s head is different from what’s in theirs. Our species survival depends on our lessening that hubristic hold.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Healthy respect and wary of it. Also an interesting combination. Always appreciate your perspective, Joy.

  5. Brett Hebert Avatar
    Brett Hebert

    Yes! Yes to both in intense degrees depending upon what it is doing to me at the moment…

    I have always wanted to be different than everyone around me. Not personal against them for sure, but I wanted to be unique and different in how I thought and the thoughts I had! I wanted to live in their world marching to my drummer, NEVER wanting to be “just one thing, one person, in only one way” as so eloquently shared in your post.
    However. I have always thought of it as me pushing away from mendacity, mediocrity, vapid pop culture, et al as a way to save my sanity as I could see the big picture. Pushing away from something is NOT the same as moving into something else. I realize now it is not an improvement, but rather, a lessening of my pain. I always thought the ol brain would somehow reveal My Purpose just sort of magically as it did when I was in school but half a century of trodding on this Earth has not shown that to be a reasonable nor rational plan.

    On the academic front, I have always treasured the time I had in school. Recently however, I am feeling a bit hoodwinked as the world I matriculated in to did not have the rules I was taught, the orderly progressions of knowledge I had been exposed to, nor the yardstick of success I had figured out. As per the post, my father too did not see “me” but rather the artifacts and awards I achieved as I struggled to get my own recognition…which reminds me that he declined an invitation to join MENSA when he was alive. I guess this anti-social part of me is inherited to some degree.

    “Your creative capacity to catastrophize” is simply brilliant. I am always called out for over thinking (always always always) and I can really cut loose when thinking about what COULD go wrong. It is absolutely exhausting and seems to truly come to the fore when trying to sleep.

    The final thought is the last word in the “just one thing” quote: lonely. A few weeks back, you shared a post on being weird that I thought resonated well with me. Weird was ok for some things but anymore, it is just lonely.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Everything you say here will be so helpful to others to read, Brett. Thank you for sharing.

      1. Nimue Brown Avatar
        Nimue Brown

        It took me far too long to realise that if I don’t feed my brain good things to chew on, it just… chews. Sometimes on bits of me, often it gets very anxious, or I overthink ridiculous, trivial things. My brain needs a high calorie diet of things to chew on, and when I feed it properly it’s a much happier organ and it works better. It helps if there are people inclined to be excited about whatever I’m currently excited about, but I’m doing better on that score at the moment. I need challenges and to learn new things and to be puzzled and have to figure stuff out.

        1. pprober Avatar

          Oh, yes, Nimue. Is it OK if I quote you in a future post? It’s a great way to put what your brain needs!

        2. Marina Avatar

          I quite agree with you! Keep your brain busy by feeding it with whatever feels motivating and has a purpose for you.

        3. itssue42 Avatar

          Put so well 🙂
          Indeed, must keep feeding the brain challenging, enthralling fodder or it just keeps chewing itself to bits.

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