Paula Prober has done in her new book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, what I've wished to do throughout my career as a coach to gifted people: she has presented the public real gifted people working through their real issues one by one in therapy. She shows how they grow, come to understand their gifted minds, learn self-acceptance, heal from trauma, and reach new heights of personal success (however they themselves define it). Much of the past and current literature on giftedness sounds academic and dry, and even though there is certainly room for and value in gifted theory (I spend a lot of my own writing time in that domain) and gifted research, "meeting" live gifted people who teach us via their own therapy, struggle, and breakthrough more about who we are, why we struggle, and what we can do to improve our lives, is a great gift!
- She covers the wide range of typical issues that plague gifted people, such as anxiety, procrastination, neurotic perfectionism, hypersensitivity, extreme empathy, high idealism, existential depression, relational trouble, isolation and loneliness, bullying, career boredom, and in more severe cases, attempting suicide. In each case, she gives an example of a client struggling with the issue and details how they worked through it together in therapy sessions; and she gives ample food-for-thought and resources to help readers combat or resolve those same issues in our own lives.
- Paula presents the common dilemma of the gifted person who is stymied in their search for help from a non-gifted therapist or coach. Gifted clients can seem clever and to be doing quite well because they understand their situation clearly on the mental level, but understanding and application are two different things, and this is something that can easily "fool" therapists who are not aware of the other side of the gifted coin. Her book is a huge shout out to the world of the immense value of specialized therapy and support for gifted people.
- She perfectly expresses the challenge of gifted people working through trauma - people whose minds "get things" so quickly, but can't "get" healed from trauma in the same lightening speed. The challenge of the therapist or coach working with a gifted person healing from trauma is to measure what their client can handle, even if their client seems to handle all things quickly. Many of my own clients have told me over the years how their therapists misread them, believing them to be healed because the clients intellectually understood the trauma figuration. I myself went through this with an early therapist who thought I had resolved all my issues because I "understood" them. That led me to feel let down and mistrustful of helping professionals for years (ironically, since I am and was one of them)! I felt that if they could be fooled by my quick mind, they didn't understand how traumatized I was, or how crazy I felt (and so I believed that maybe I really was crazy, and worse, unfixable!). Paula shows how a therapist should look for the difference between intellectual understanding and emotional understanding in gifted clients, and how to go at the right speeds for clients in the various domains (intellectual, emotional, physical, etc.)
- She explains how counselors and helping professionals who are unaware of what giftedness is can also make mistakes in diagnosing their patients/clients - sometimes with ADD, bipolar, or other rather serious conditions - when the symptoms are actually signs of giftedness. Of course, there may be both a disorder and giftedness present (what is called "twice exceptional"), and Paula gives great resources to learn more about that when that is the case. But she shows how to differentiate between these situations, so that gifted traits aren't being mistreated as a "disorder."
Watch Paula's InterGifted Coaching Network Talk!
About Jennifer Harvey Sallin
Jennifer is founding director of InterGifted and is a psychologist, coach and mentor who specializes in providing training and mentoring for gifted coaches and other helping professionals who support the gifted; in performing giftedness assessments; and in mentoring profoundly gifted adults. She writes extensively on giftedness and self-development and you can find her articles here on InterGifted’s blog and on her own blog at Rediscovering Yourself. She is based in Switzerland and works with gifted adults throughout the world. Learn more about Jen here.