A Few Questions about Gifted Adults and their “Rainforest Minds” with Author Paula Prober

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This summer my friend Paula Prober, a licensed therapist, released her first book. The title, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth {Amazon Affiliate Link}, comes from her popular blog. The phrase “rainforest mind” is a brilliant description of the multi-faceted experience of living with giftedness.

In October Paula graciously sent me a copy from her personal stash. When finished reading it, I posted this review via Amazon:

“Having had the honor of seeing the author’s SENG presentation in San Jose a few years back, I was eager to see how she took her ideas and insights from the talk to the page. Prober did not disappoint. In fact, what she has written for GHF Press is an essential book for therapists and gifted advocates hoping to grasp a better idea of gifted adults. What I found especially helpful are the many resources identified in the text. Hopefully readers will take these suggestions to heart, follow up on them, and begin to amplify discussions of “rainforest minds” online and in their communities.”

Shortly thereafter I sent the newly minted author a few question “clusters,” the answers to which she generously allowed me to share here with you. What I loved about her reply is that they reflect Paula’s clear, honest, and insightful writing–the same content you’ll find if you purchase the book. (Scroll down past the cover to see her responses.)

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Q: One of the recurring stories that comes up in the gifted advocacy community is the adult who comes to understand his/her own giftedness through the identification of giftedness (and/or twice-exceptionality) in a child. Can you talk broadly about issues you see related to multi-generational “rainforest minds”? Are there two or three specific actions or habits can families develop to create safe, welcoming family environments and nurturing relationships for gifted adults and youth?

A: I often see that as well: “multi-generational rainforest minds” Here are a few of my suggestions for parents based on the issues that I see in these families:

  • Practice simply listening and reflecting feelings when your child is having a meltdown. Keep breathing so that you can stay calm. Don’t take the extreme emotion personally. (None of this is easy. You may want to meltdown yourself.) Problem solve with your child once the storm is over and let your child offer solutions so that the whole family is collaborating. Explain that having a rainforest mind means having passionate feelings that can at times be overwhelming. (for you, too)
  • Ask your child to imagine a large container to hold his/her intense emotions when it’s not safe or wise to express them. When your child returns home, the emotions can be released. Have a list handy of positive ways to release emotions. Your child can choose from the list.
  • Avoid power struggles by responding to requests with: “Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.”
  • Make a list of ways you can relax and soothe yourself. Make the time to do them! Take breaks from your kids. Practice self-soothing techniques with your child.
  • Your child will not be irreparably harmed if you make a mistake! When you apologize, you give your child permission to err and you demonstrate how to manage mistakes.
  • If you’re noticing that you’re over-reacting repeatedly to your child’s intensities or schooling troubles, it may be because your own difficult childhood experiences are being triggered. This might be the time to find a good counselor to address your own issues. In my experience, when parents enter counseling, the whole multi-generational system benefits!

Excellent resources related to this parenting gifted kids can be found at Charlotte Reznick at imageryforkids.com, and via the Hoagie’s and Gifted Homeschoolers Forum blog hops (see here and here). The blog hops are on particularly important topics and are written by parents and professionals.

Q: In light of eldercare and parenting and the “Sandwich Generation,” can you talk about the ways stress can rattle a mid-life rainforest mind–and what, if anything, they can do to combat it?

A: Because you have a rainforest mind, you may believe that you have to excel at all things. And you may, in fact, excel at many (all?) things. And yet. Parenting a gifted child is challenging enough. Add eldercare, and you will surely be rattled. Seriously and exceedingly rattled. Repeatedly. You will have to say goodbye to your unhealthy perfectionism.

This means that you have to admit that you have limits, to ask for help and to take breaks. For the welfare of all of your family members, it will be more important than ever to take care of yourself by doing activities that soothe your soul.

And, if you don’t excel at all things, all of the time?

Trust me.

You will still be gifted.

Thanks so much, Paula!

If you, dear reader, have had the pleasure of reading Your Rainforest Mind–of if you have questions or comments about her remarks above, I’m sure we’d both love to hear about it in comments.

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Drive-Thru Window Grief Counseling

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There’s an extroverted young guy that works at a certain fast food establishment’s drive-thru window. Every so often I buzz through and, if he’s working and it’s slow, we have a little chit-chat.

Awhile back he told me about his mother having passed, a fact that I missed even though he lives near me and I used to talk to her on occasion when we first moved to San Antonio. Cancer, if memory serves. I felt pretty bad about it when he told me because, had I known, I’d have done something. It was jarring news, and I felt that somehow I’d failed as a neighbor to pay attention, to notice, to care.

Anyway, this morning he was working and it was slow and so, embracing my own current liminal phase of grief, I boldly brought that earlier conversation up.

“Hey, I know I haven’t seen you in awhile,” I said, “but I think of your loss and you and your Mom every time I pass your house.”

He seemed a little surprised and then smiled broadly.

“Yeah! Wow. That’s so nice that, I dunno, that you actually cared enough to remember.”

“My own mom died, in August. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not the same! Very different situation. She was elderly and I had her a lot longer than you had your mom–”

He waves his hands to dismiss the time difference. It’s as if our grief is complete and common enough, the particulars of who had their mother the longest in this life rendered irrelevant by his graceful moves.

Then he leaned on his forearms on the window frame and said warmly “I’m so very sorry.”

“I’m okay. It’s okay. It’s just, you know. Well, you DO know.”

He leaned back his head and chuckled.

“Do I ever! It’s just so weird, right? I mean, you get used to it. I promise. And it’s going to get better. But at first it’s just, it’s just… well, you know what I’m saying?”

“I do. I really do,” I said, nodding. “And it’s like we don’t talk about it culturally. Not really. We just go through it and then people that have been through it are ‘YES! I so get it!’ Like we’re all in this club that ‘knows’ stuff and give each other the sage nod.”

“Exactly. It’s like there’s this taboo around your mother dying. It’s life. And it happens. Hey, you need to know that people are going to reach out and they say these things, these comforting things and you think ‘Okay, sure. I’ll just nod and be nice but, man, this is crazy.'”

“Yeah, it’s just cultural programming, the words. Everyone means well. I just take it and smile.”

“Right. They do mean well, they do. But, whoa, you know? You accept it and you just know that what you’re feeling is just different than what they say. And you’ve got these memories and these feelings. But, trust me, it’s going to get better. You’re going to feel better. It’s going to take a long time and that ache is gonna be there. But, yes, ma’am, better. You’re going to get through it. I promise. It’s still early for you, but things are going to get better.”

Then he smiled again. It was warm and bright, like morning sunlight.

His mother must be so proud of him.

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