Are You Too Much Or Are You Just A Lot?

Many of my clients say they feel like too much. They are often told this by family, friends, educators, and medical professionals. Too much to handle. Too much awareness. Too high standards. Too many expectations. Too many emotions. Too many questions. Too many worries. Too many desires. Too many words. Too many careers. Too many ideas. Too many books.

(photo by Unsplash)

Are you too much? Or are you just a lot? Abundant. Lush. Bountiful. Exuberant. Prolific. Affluent. Generous. Plentiful. Resourceful. Powerful. Influential.

Well, when I put it that way, it sounds pretty good. Right?

Reminds you of the rainforest, doesn’t it? And surely, you would not tell the rainforest it is too much.

But I understand. It can be overwhelming or intense in the jungle. It can be irritating, annoying, or scary if you run into a swarm of mosquitoes or a den of snakes. It can be thrilling, inspiring, and magnificent. All at the same time.

So, my dears, how do you manage all that? How do you live with it? How do you relate to other humans?

It’s complicated. (Did you see that coming?)

As you can imagine, because you are all different and complex in your own unique ways, the answers to these questions will vary. Some of you will need to understand your sensitivities and empathy and find tools to build healthy boundaries so you are less overwhelmed by other humans and their emotions, their suffering, or their criticism. Some of you will need to practice regular self-soothing techniques to calm your anxiety and reduce your tendency to worry about life, the universe, and everything. Some of you will need to learn to tune into and trust your intuition so that decision-making is not quite so difficult and so you deepen your connection with a spiritual source. Some of you will need to research what it means to be twice-exceptional. Some of you will need to learn ways to communicate more effectively with people who might not think at your speed or feel at your depth. Some of you will need to change career paths multiple times. Some of you will need to find a good therapist who can take you on the deep journey to heal your early family trauma. Some of you will need to take the first step to initiate contact with a new friend. Some of you will need to find creative ways to build a community of like-minds. Some of you will need to experiment with different art forms because you are driven to find your creative voice(s). Some of you will need to learn to dance the Argentine tango so people will finally be able to follow you. Some of you will need to join with others who are socially responsible to take action to create a better world. Some of you will need to give yourselves permission to accept that you do indeed have a rainforest mind and to finally step into all that you are.

Many of you, well, may need to do all of the above.

So, next time you feel like you are too much, remember you are bountiful, lush, and generous. And in the wise words of C.D.Bower: “One of the marks of true genius is a quality of abundance. A rich, rollicking abundance. Enough to give indigestion to ordinary people.”


To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your “rich, rollicking abundance.” We love that about you. Thank you, as always, for reading and sharing. My next book is almost here! I’m hoping for early June. Look for the announcement here and on my other social media accounts. It is a guided journal designed just for you!

For those of you who are parents, the summit from Bright and Quirky about screen time/social media and your gifted child starts today. (Monday, May 15, 2023) For more information, go here (my affiliate link)

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.

29 responses to “Are You Too Much Or Are You Just A Lot?”

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  1. Ian S Avatar
    Ian S

    This is well timed as I’ve recently been reminded of how being “too much” makes getting human connection difficult. Often I feel like I am “between a rock and a hard place”.

    Men traditionally have “shoulder to shoulder” friendships based on shared activities in which they basically avoid being “too much” of anything, and share emotions exclusively with a partner (there’s plenty of empirical research out there that supports this). But I’ve consistently found that when I rely on a small network of people or just one person to share myself with, my “too muchness” tends to overwhelm people. This happened in my family of origin, where I was well loved by my parents but I slid into the family scapegoat role in my teens when they couldn’t cope with my intensity. As an adult I mostly get on very well with my parents now that we live a moderate distance away from each other, talk regularly on the phone but meet only from time to time (although the old dynamics occasionally recur, as “old habits die hard”, as they say).

    Thus, I find that I’m better off spreading myself more thinly across wider social networks, sharing different parts of myself with different people. But the problem I get there is that my intense friendships aren’t always accepted by others, even when I am spreading myself relatively thinly across quite a large number of them. Most people, most of the time, do accept them, but I find that if a friend’s partner or close relative, or (with female friends) a friend’s close female friend, is uncomfortable with the intensity of my friendship, they tend to step in to demand that it be reduced to the “shoulder to shoulder” type, and invariably they get their way, and I tend not to get any say in the matter, it’s between my friend and the third party.

    This results in disenfranchised grief, as I abruptly lose a good friendship long before it has run its natural course, but my grief response tends to get perceived as either an over-reaction or as a sign that I probably wanted more than friendship, so I generally have to hide my grief from others.
    I’m currently suffering from a wave of this disenfranchised grief right now, but I still have a wide overall social circle, which helps to soften the blow.
    My “too muchness” seems to make me much more able than average to sustain a large number of friendships and family ties at once, which is how I got this large social circle which is now providing quite a large safety net, but I’ve had quite a few reminders recently that, unfortunately, my friendships are often at the mercy of my friends’ partners and family members, and disenfranchised grief always lurks around the corner.

    Sometimes I find myself wishing I could stop being “too much”, as it would tone down a lot of these issues that I’m having, but then I get reminded of, for example, a Meetup that I had back in 2019 when someone asked the group, “When did you last experience ‘flow’?”, and the other two men in the group both responded, “I don’t remember, I’ve learnt to numb my emotions”, and my answer was “just four days ago, when I was watching a thunderstorm”. My “too muchness” tends to result in me getting “flow”, or close to it, at some point during most weeks. Being “too much” is difficult, but I would rather be in my current position than be in the position of numbness that those other two men described.

    1. pprober Avatar

      This is such a great description of how you grapple with the “too muchness” of giftedness, Ian. Sending you hugs for the grief. And, yes! Hurray for the flow!

    2. renovatio06 Avatar

      Much of what you just described so well, Ian, resonates with me and gives me words for the feelings of perceived rejection and injury from those, particularly “disenfranchised” grief, which I find to be a most accurate nomer for the dynamics at play here. Very sorry to hear how you lost some friendships in this way you describe, people can be so extremely callous and cold and most often, it never even occurs to them how extremely painful their behaviour feels for the thus “chainsawed” people of our ilk. Thank you, very enlightening!

  2. Nimue Avatar

    Being told that everything is welcome, everything of how I am is wanted, has been one o the most beautiful and empowering experiences of my life.

    1. pprober Avatar

      So wonderful that you’ve experienced that, Nimue!

  3. Sam Avatar

    Yep. Always sending massive long messages of responses. Very detailed emails. Always have a lot to say on every topic. Lots of “here she goes” when I start talking about intense things. I definitely lose a lot of people so have learned not to have those conversations or raise those topics now unless with people I know who have similar interests or intensities. Now mostly I read non-fiction science books to go on the wild journeys into abstract thought and to feed my never satiated craving for knowledge about anything and everything about how it all works/is/may eventually come to be. I love being me, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a lonely place at times.

    1. pprober Avatar

      You are not alone, Sam! Your “journeys into abstract thought” and “craving for knowledge” are familiar to us all!

    2. renovatio06 Avatar

      Sounds like the trajectory I’m on as well and how I prefer to spend my time. Also, learning not to repeat the same mistakes of giving myself away to people whom I realize now quicker than before that they won’t appreciate me and my abundance of consciousness that feels most alive when reciprocated by humans of a similar nature as I.

  4. renovatio06 Avatar

    Nailed it, Paula, as usual! And seeing as I had a “digital encounter” with someone finding themselves in a similar position as I for reasons also similar (in part), others different from mine, I dedicated a blog of my own to my reflections on your post:

    It’s a more personal recap of how I’ve been experiencing the larger part of my life. I guess, I’m trying to say that professionals like yourself weren’t even anywhere “on the radar” in my time growing up and attending High School and college/university education. For I get the feeling that had there been more awareness my path might have looked much different and most likely not landed me in the situation I find myself in in my native country (I had been doin’ pretty well for a few decades until symptoms from an also underlying cPTSD came to the fore and with such vengeance that I quickly wasn’t able to function any more). I’m really not the “gloom and doom” advocate, personally I see every challenge as an opportunity first (unless it’s bullying, which isn’t a challenge at all, but more like a “done deal” in many cases, per my experience and analysis). I guess, I want to express with so many words how important your work is, how much the world needs to know about some of “us” neurodivergent ones, who simply “march to a different drum” (we don’t march at all, and if it needed to be a drum, then I take it most of us rather prefer a djembe, congas or other indigenous instrument than a military snare drum… 😉 )

    “Where do you go when the world keeps rejecting you as being too much”? I still need to find out… 🙂 (and would be completely lost without your fine work and publishing activities….).

    1. pprober Avatar

      I will check your blog post, renovatio06. Thank you for your kind “so many words.”

    2. Clignett Avatar

      Thank you, renovatio06! Your blog (and this reply inspires me! Similar conditions of life (style and where I am), and similar thought processes. Good read, and even more important, good mental challenges to ponder about! 🥰

      1. renovatio06 Avatar

        Thank you, Clignett, I appreciate your kind reply! And even better, if there was something in it for you to take away, which… is the idea when publishing something for the rest of the world 🙂

    3. Sheep’s Wool Avatar
      Sheep’s Wool

      I’ve read your blog post, renovatio06, and I liked it very much. I found it a satisfying read from an intellectual point of view, and I empathise with the difficulties of existing in this space. You describe feeling marginalised and alone due to your gifted, neurodiverse profile and I am sure your physical needs play a role as well. I can empathise with not feeling comfortable in the mainstream and asking myself, “how can I fit into it?”
      To be honest, I don’t know if that’s the right question for me to ask. I don’t want to fit into the swell of centre-stream or perhaps into the work-world the way it appears to want us to turn up if we wish to earn remuneration.
      What I wanted to say is this – I think it is important that we keep reading each other. It is an act of courage for you to write – and maybe you enjoy it too – and your words are like bottles sent out on the ocean, thrown out into the blue not knowing if anyone will ever see them.
      I feel a little odd, strange, different, interesting and intriguing. I’m learning more about myself. I realised yesterday that the ‘system’ is not the world. We have a place in the world. Historically, for example, to start, we would have lived in a world of much less busy sensory stimulation. This would have been much more aligned and apt for us. I feel so much at home and at ease in my nervous system as a HSP when I walk in an old tree-lined park.
      These are just scraps of thoughts. Maybe reading each other and maybe producing some creative output are the right things to do for us to know ourselves. I mean this in the sense that maybe we will all help each other – separately, individually, like bottles in the ocean – to know ourselves so that in turn we can exist in the world with intent, self-confidence and composure.

      Recently someone told me that we don’t always have to think of the mainstream for belonging. There are fringes too. On the fringes, someone/people might want to hear what you have to say, and might want what you create.

      I’m not sure – I do feel we can give to the world too

      With every good wish.

      1. renovatio06 Avatar

        Oh, I love your reply, Sheep’s Wool! And yes, like you say: I don’t even intend any longer to fit in with the mainstream – I’ve been doing so for many decades and it warped me to the point of needing to bend out of shape every day simply to “show up” as expected (I mean, with the composure and “ready-steadiness” of meeting superiors’ ideas and wishes, delivering on their “performance” expectations and such. Or simply… coming across as “easy” for the neuro–non-diverse… even that required too big an effort, eventually.

        Yes, “fringes”, I hear you. Recently, I seem to zero in on the realization that I might continue trying to carve my own “niche” to at least semi–comfortably exist in, much like Paula managed for herself (I hope, I’m not overinterpretating her or putting words in her mouth she hadn’t intended…)

        And absolutely “yes” on your observation that one key requirement for people of our kind is a world with much less sensory input, particularly since we process any input much deeper than most as it is, which – given the capacity of the human brain – is almost a “job” in and of itself, isn’t it? Like you, I feel most at home in ideally quiet, non-crowded nature, but nature always has a soothing and good effect on me, agreed!

        I love your closing statement “I’m not sure – I do feel we can give to the world too”. I try to find a new foundation for myself in that very idea: That we’re here “for a reason”, as it’s always referred to, that for the mere fact people – or beings – like us do exist, there must be some evolutionary “idea” behind it – and if for nothing else than to either reaffirm the non-diverse “make” of people… or … enhance it. It is the latter thought I seem to gravitate towards and my feeling is that you may have had something like that in mind? I.e. that we might “inform” the usual mainstream of other, more expanded possibilities, something like that?

        Really loved your thought provoking, but mindfully articulated response, that is how I wish all communication would go 🙂

        1. Sheep's Wool Avatar
          Sheep’s Wool

          Renovatio06, I echo what you say about ‘beings’. It sounds a bit wacky but sometimes I do feel this. It just is.

          I support your idea – hopefully it feels exciting – of carving out your space or niche. It will come from your voice. Keep expressing yourself. People (some people, the ones who resonate) will want what you are saying, even if it is simply to echo who they are at their core. There are a few interesting accounts on Instagram, for example, possibly people who are offering coaching or courses based on something they have learned, trained in or experienced themselves. (What do you believe in? What inspires you? Have you learned things you are grateful for, and that you celebrate? Have you felt transformed any time? Are there little intuitions and hairbrained ideas that you have at the back of your mind that you would love to explore or try to create? What environment do you feel most you in, most alive, most at peace? I don’t ask these to have one perfect answer now and for ever more. I think it is important to journal, write and listen to yourself. Over time you discover more who you are).

          You are a multipotentialite too. The way I see that now – for me, intuitively – is as an acrobat, a gymnast, a flying monk, an entity that can pirouette and swirl mid air and do it again and again and land. This is a form of joy in doing, in expressing. It is a thing we do. It does not have to lead to an outcome as far as purpose is concerned. It is expression. When you find your flow, who you feel you are, those different abilities you have will all fit in.

          I do feel the neurodiverse thing is a different experience – I am feeling it too. And I am grateful for it.

          The following is just a thought but I keep coming back to it every so often – have you seen the film ‘Bright Star’ by Jane Campion? I hope you get a chance to see it. I wonder if the mood of the film, the non-intrusive sensory environment of the film, will have an effect on you, or just drop itself into your consciousness to enrich it and enrich an idea.

          Anyway, this is all very vague. And I like that too : )

          P.S. Paula’s upcoming journal could be very interesting for us to help us draw out our feelings and intuitions. Secondly, could you try something new in a group (maybe an online course)? This could provide companionship; you are all learning together, and you could find your place, and feel the support of others. Personally, I have a fear of failing. This comes from trying to think things out beforehand. I think I might try to learn by doing and just getting involved the next time. There is the joy of ‘diving in’ there.

          1. renovatio06 Avatar

            The many aspects your wonderfully differentiated and complex reply would merit addressing would easily take our thread out of proportion seeing as we’re meeting in “Paula’s Hangout”, but… again, I love and loved everything you say and bring to attention there, @Sheep’s Wool!

            I’m going to come back to reading your comment when I have another moment of being really open enough to embrace it all, because there is a host of ideas worth looking into or exploring! You’re a gymnast, you say? Wonderful! I used to be one in my younger years, too, and the one aspect about it that gave me the most joy was getting to experience my body as a “tool” for (physical, bodily) expression, I guess, somewhere along the lines of what Paula enjoyed with learning and dancing Argentine Tango 🙂 (on a side note in that regard: Are you familiar with the shows of the Canadian outfit “Cirque Du Soleil”? I saw one of their programs back in … I think it must have been 2001–ish or so and…. oh… I fell in love with everything they bring to the stage! Since you said, you’re a gymnast, maybe that could even be a career prospect for you?)

            Thanks for the film tipp, I’ll try to locate it somewhere, it sounds very very intriguing! And thanks for the very productive, mindful, inspiring exchange and communication to begin with! Oh, how easily we thrive and live when surrounded by other members of our “rainforest tribe”…. 🙂

            1. Sheep’s Wool Avatar
              Sheep’s Wool

              Renovatio06, I wish I were a real gymnast in the physical sense 😃

              I wasn’t clear enough.

              It’s hard to explain but I was speaking metaphorically when I compared myself to a gymnast, a flying monk (as in the film ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’) or an acrobat.
              On the existential or spiritual level I feel my energy can soar, twist, turn, dive or perform graceful feats just like those symbols I mentioned. As RFMs, we are often interested in doing different things.
              At the centre of what I wanted to say in my posts was the urge and desire to know ourselves as rainforest minded people (as gifted, HSPs) – it takes some teasing and feeling out.
              I shared those felt images with you as an example of me learning to trust my inner sensation and knowing.
              I will stop for now.
              There’s no need to digest it all. They were just my musings. If any of them inspire or elevate something for you, I’d be delighted.

  5. On Giftedness, “Social Death” and Isolation | Posting sparked by TWo Recent digital Encounters – Late.Shift

    […] And both together really knocked the wind out of me again. Like, wtf, not only do I find myself an outcast because I’ve become incapacitated, at least where it pertains to the conditions we see in most workplaces today, disabled and hence “unfit” to meet the demands of the common job market. (I would excel in some areas, I’m pretty sure, but certain non-negotiables would have to be met in order to facilitate that performance. I’ve never encountered any of those and can’t identify them in my country of residence, try as I might). No, not enough I’m an outcast on one count, I’m also someone most people seek to distance themselves from for being too… [insert your personal pet peeve here]! […]

  6. Clignett Avatar

    I really love this one: the wise words of C.D. Bower: “One of the marks of true genius is a quality of abundance. A rich, rollicking abundance. Enough to give indigestion to ordinary people.”

    It is all of what you mention for me. Although I’ve given up my space for the therapy/information and coping skills about learning whether autism has a place inside me. I had panic attacks going to that appointment (and a double appointment so I really couldn’t go anyway), but the conversations I had with the therapists were so valuable! Conclusion for me was exactly what you write: “Some of you will need to give yourselves permission to accept that you do indeed have a rainforest mind and to finally step into all that you are.” That’s exactly what I told them. And that I really wouldn’t be doing it for me, but more for other people to be able to tell them how to “deal” with me. Ehm.. bit turned around, right! So I’ve finally decided that I need to accept myself as I am, with all my quirks and challenges, and if someone has a problem with me, that’s on them. Don’t contact me then, just stay away..
    So therapy is a stop for me, and I’m good with that! It gives me peace of mind and room to feel myself again.
    But all else, yes, still in there! Ok, with exception of the Argentine tango, no matter how much I love it, my body just won’t comply anymore… 🙈🙄

    1. pprober Avatar

      Always good to hear your experience, Clignett. Thank you. (I just started back dancing tango and so far it seems my body is complying! Phew.)

      1. Clignett Avatar

        So happy your body still complies! 😍
        It was one of my favorite things to do, to dance, but alas, my back and shoulders won’t have it anymore.. but I can still enjoy watching it, dancing with them in my mind 🤩🥰

  7. Me Avatar

    Thank you, Paula for summing it up so beautifully ☺️

    I work in a tutoring school with pupils of various ages and backgrounds, some gifted others not and recently I have told them something similar. That they are hopefully able to explore life in various aspects, some in more than others.

    I think it is about the richness, whether you are gifted or not, life has to offer. It is always worth exploring.
    I am grateful for being able to share about the „rainforest“ with these pupils who interesting enough seem to have a much better understanding of it than adults.

    1. pprober Avatar

      It can be so rewarding to work with children, Me! Thank you.

  8. Leafy Avatar

    The rainforest mind imagery explains this kind of intensity very well. In a sense, learning psychology is akin to studying the ecology of people. The more ecosystems we know, the more people we can understand on some level. It’s common for people to reject an entire ecosystem because it doesn’t look like theirs (or looks unwell to them), though. Then, the ecosystem can truly start being unwell, having internalized that it’s inadequate (and of course confirming others’ view). I would imagine that this is the story of many people. At the core, I think most people mean well, but there is a lack of awareness that makes it so we keep hurting each other with unfounded judgements.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Yes, Leafy, let us embrace all of the human ecosystems and work to understand them! Thank you for being here.

  9. Nancy Graham Avatar
    Nancy Graham

    Oh, my, yes. So I’ve been told. I feel that It is a curse and it is a blessing.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Yes, complicated! Thank you, Nancy.

  10. Antoni Perez Avatar
    Antoni Perez

    Thank you so much. It is good to see it in that way 🙌. I actually have been into the Amazon rainforest and I love it.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Oh, good to hear from you, Antoni!

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