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Too much and not enough: The perspective of a Rainforest mind

Written by  Paula Prober
Too much and not enough: The perspective of a Rainforest mind Arnie Chou, Pexels

Expert Feature

In this feature, we look at life through the complex and rich perspective of a highly-sensitive and deep-thinking mind: The Rainforest Mind (RFM). Many of us will know a person like this. We might work with them, they may be a friend, or someone in our family. We may even have this kind of mind ourselves. But what does the world feel like for people who have this kind of multilayered, colourful and mysterious mind? In this special essay for Breaking Perspectives, our guestwriter psychotherapist and author Paula Prober, who coined the term, paints us a picture of the person who may feel too much and yet not enough. 


Do people tell you to lighten up when you are just trying to enlighten them?

Do you see ecru, beige, sand, and eggshell when others see white?

Are you overwhelmed by itchy clothes, strong smells, clashing colours, bad architecture, angry strangers, needy friends, breathtaking sunsets, glorious symphonies, and global suffering?

Do you spend hours seeking the exact word, the right note, the perfect gift, the finest colour, the most meaningful discussion, or the deepest connection?

Do you find deciding about your future career and what colour to paint the bedroom equally daunting?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then, you may have a Rainforest Mind (RFM).

Does it matter if you know this?

You bet it does.

It's complicated

Rainforest-minded people (RFMs) are highly sensitive, intuitive, creative, idealistic, and quite smart. They have many varied interests and abilities, care deeply about justice and social issues, and hold very high standards for themselves. Even though they are quite intellectually gifted, they may not perform well in school, if they are not challenged, or if they are anxious or over-thinking tests.

These souls are often misunderstood and misdiagnosed by others and themselves, because it is wrongly assumed that smart people are all high achievers who excel with ease. There may also be confusion over whether they are actually so bright if they have difficulty making decisions, because they can think of so many possible variables or outcomes, making choosing one thing difficult. For this population, often, the simple is complex and the complex is simple, thus, they may avoid mundane tasks and yearn for complexity.

You may have been called a know-it-all or a geek or an over-thinker. You may have been misdiagnosed with OCD, ADHD, or even bipolar disorder. You may have been told that you think too much, that you feel too much, and that you know too much.

If you can realise your “too muchness” is a result of a deeply sensitive, capable, and unique personhood, then you might be able to find your voice and your purpose in this wild world, instead of misinterpreting your anxiety or depression or loneliness to mean you are a slacker, a weirdo, or a freak. Granted, you may have grown up in a dysfunctional family that has distorted your self-understanding and from which you developed anxiety and depression. Granted, you may have trouble relating to other humans for many reasons. But, even so, finding this particular piece of your puzzle can make a huge difference.

“You may have been told that you think too much, that you feel too much, and that you know too much"

Children are like ecosystems

I developed the rainforest mind metaphor many years ago when I was a teacher in the public schools. I was teaching gifted children who were pulled out of their regular classes, so they might experience advanced curriculum based on their particular interests, and so they could spend time with each other and get support for their particular social and emotional needs. I wanted to explain giftedness to the teachers who were not particularly thrilled that I was taking these children out of their classes.

I came up with the metaphor as a way to suggest, if children are like ecosystems, some are like deserts, some meadows, some tundra, and so on. All ecosystems are valuable and beautiful. One is not better than another. The rainforest ecosystem is just the most complex, intense, colourful, sensitive, and creative, and may be the most misunderstood. We are destroying our rainforests even though they provide much-needed oxygen and essential resources. It might sound overstated, but we are also misunderstanding and hurting our gifted children and adults when we are not providing for their particular needs and traits and not letting them thrive.

Take Manuelle, for example. At, 16, Manuelle talked and thought at warp speed. She loved debate, chemistry, art, philosophy, music, anthropology, and more. She was reading at age four, and writing lengthy stories about mythological creatures when she was eight. She loved learning, but was told by teachers “no one likes a know-it-all,” and to not work ahead; to wait until the other students caught up to her. Manuelle preferred mathematics to Instagram. She had exceptionally high standards for her work, and engaged in endless research when she was interested in a topic.

Then there was Carlos, 34. Open-hearted, sensitive and smart, he struggled in school to memorise multiplication facts and manage his anxiety during tests. He was in and out of college for 15 years without graduating, changing majors several times as he had so many interests, and couldn’t choose just one career path. Carlos was told to tone down his enthousiasm and hide his deep emotions. He was a self-taught IT expert, distraught over the way natural resources were wasted and how humans were ignoring climate change.

And Annelise. At 53, she had never found a lasting partnership. Her knowledge of biology, art, feminism and mythology was vast and deep. She longed for a partner who could follow her musings and not be overwhelmed by her effervescence. She had difficulty simplifying her communication with others, and didn’t realise that what was obvious to her wasn’t always clear to anyone else. Mentors were always a disappointment. She found solace in her powerful spiritual connection to nature.

“She longed for a partner who could follow her musings and not be overwhelmed by her effervescence"

To live like the rainforest

These are examples of humans I have known with Rainforest Minds. They all told me they felt like they were not enough and too much at the same time, even though they were all highly intelligent, sensitive, and intuitive.

When they began to understand that their painful experiences were the result of their Rainforest Minds, and not due to their lazy dysfunctional arrogant craziness, they started to blossom: To feel confidence. To meet companions. To speak out more fully. To find purpose. To discover meaning. To make the world a better place.

To live like the thriving rainforest: In peace, grace, balance, and beauty and in support of all beings on the planet.

“When they began to understand that their painful experiences were the result of their Rainforest Minds, and not due to their lazy dysfunctional arrogant craziness, they started to blossom"

Are you someone with a Rainforest Mind (RFM)? Or do you think you know someone who has it? Check this out, it may make things a lot clearer.

THE QUIZ | Your Rainforest Mind

Your Rainforest Mind | Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

Paula Prober

About the author: Paula Prober

Paula Prober is a psychotherapist, consultant, blogger, tango dancer, and author based in Eugene, Oregon, USA. She blogs at Your Rainforest Mind, a blog in support of the excessively curious, creative, smart, and sensitive. She consults with gifted adults and parents of gifted children internationally. Her first book, 'Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth' is about the mental, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual health of gifted adults and adolescents. It includes case studies of clients and resources for further study. Her second book is a compilation of her most popular blog posts, titled: Journey into Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists. It includes journal writing exercises for further exploration at the end of each chapter. 

About us

Brand new, international Life Mindstyle magazine, reflecting a variety of perspectives in different aspects of our daily lives. Are our perspectives our own? Are they good for us, for others, for the world? They might be, they might not be. Either way, wouldn't it be good to know? Be curious and see where it may take you. 

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