Archive for April, 2012

Are You Willing to Be Unconditionally Happy: The Untethered Soul – The Journey Beyond Yourself

Have you ever read a book that seemed to grab you by the shoulders and shake you?  That is just the experience I had recently while reading Michael Singer’s book The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself.  This really shouldn’t have happened as I’ve read other books about living in the “now” and letting go of the “monkey mind” of internal chatter.  But this book picked me up and shook me silly.


Where do I begin?  How about pages 46 and 47 where I did a ridiculous amount of underlining and note-taking.  Singer brings up the idea that “the only thing you really want from life is to feel enthusiasm, joy, love….If you can always feel up, if you can always feel excited abut the experience of the moment, then it doesn’t make any difference what the experience is….learn to stay open no matter what.”  He goes on to say, “Do not let anything that happens in life be important enough that you’re willing to close your heart over it.  When your heart starts to close, just say, ‘No.  I’m not going to close.  I’m going to relax.  I’m going to let this situation take place and be there with it.’….Let it be the sport of the day….You will just embrace life with all your heart and soul….Just relax and open, and tremendous energy will rush up inside of you.  You are only limited by your ability to stay open.”


I have had a variety of experiences that would normally have shut down my heart in the past couple of weeks, and several of them revolve around my 96 year-old father.  When he complains about something for the tenth time, I am now seeing this as a moment to keep my heart open and compassionate and not allow myself to shut down and try to block out the experience.  This is more difficult to do when I’m struggling with his long-term care company that has yet to reimburse us for the cost of his care, and that continues to draw a monthly insurance premium from his pension check.  But this, too, has been another opportunity to keep my heart open no matter what!


The part of the book that has been the most difficult for me is the idea of being happy “no matter what.”  Singer asks the reader “Do you want to be happy or not?”  He says this is really under our control, and of course most of us say YES!  But then he says that we “have a deep-seated set of preferences that gets in the way.”  He suggests that “any part of your being that would add a condition to your commitment to happiness has to go.”  It is hard for me to imagine being happy under painful circumstances, but Singer says, “Committing yourself to unconditional happiness will teach you every single thing there is to learn about yourself, about others, and about the nature of life…..Make that your game, and just stay happy no matter what….to stay happy, just don’t close your heart.”


I’ve always been a pretty happy person, but I’ll admit that during stressful experiences, I used to tighten my body and let my monkey mind chatter away.  Thanks to The Untethered Soul, I’m learning not to resist life’s events.  I’m trying to keep my heart open no matter the circumstances, and I’m trying to be happy no matter what. 


It may take a few more readings, and a lot more moment-to-moment awareness on my part, but I am now awake to the possibilities of the naturally-unfolding life.

Continue Reading April 9, 2012 at 7:25 pm Leave a comment

Helping Your Gifted Child Gain Emotional Freedom

Has your child ever been overwhelmed by perfectionism, sensitivity, intensity, or other innate aspects of their giftedness? In her book, Emotional Freedom, Judith Orloff, M.D., energy psychiatrist and best selling author suggests ways we can bring peace and calm to our lives. Recently finding myself in physical and emotional chaos after what may have been the flu, I decided to take another look at Dr. Orloff’s book. It occurred to me that gifted children often have such an amplified awareness, parents are usually their constant model of how to interact with the world and deal with emotional disequilibrium. I know there were times when my own sensitivity and intensity caused chaos for my family. On the other hand, I know there were times when my own sensitivity and intensity brought greater awareness for other members of my family.

So what did I learn from Dr. Orloff about emotional freedom and parenting a gifted child?

* Dr. Orloff defines emotional freedom as “Increasing your ability to love by cultivating positive emotions and being able to compassionately witness and transform negative ones, whether they’re yours or another’s.”

* We need to make sure our children aren’t being ruled by negative emotion.

* “The power of love is the champion of emotional freedom. We must respect the voice within that says, ‘Honey, be kind to yourself. You are enough. You are beautiful.’ Compassion is in each of us: it is the ultimate answer.” Dr. Orloff believes that spirit of compassion will help all of us to become strong and joyful. What parents wouldn’t want that for themselves and their children?

* Dr. Orloff recounts a Native American story about what we “feed” will grow stronger. She suggests that we set our “intention to feed what is best and most beautiful within” ourselves in order to gain emotional freedom.

* Our bodies are depleted by emotional stress and our bodies are revived by calm. Dr. Orloff describes many ways to bring calm to our bodies.

As someone who has experienced the emotional stress brought on by my sensitivity and intensity, I would recommend Dr. Orloff’s book. She weaves together practical suggestions with stories from her life as well as those of her patients. One of my favorite parts of this book is when Dr. Orloff suggests that we let ourselves “feel the sensuality of inhaling and exhaling as air passes through your nostrils and chest like a cool breeze. Take pleasure in the breath’s hypnotic rhythm….With each slow, deep breath, feel yourself inhaling calm, sweet as the scent of summer jasmine… Emotional Freedom reminds me to not take the power of my breath for granted. How lovely it would be if highly sensitive and intense children could be taught ways to gain their own emotional freedom!

April 3, 2012 at 2:02 pm Leave a comment

Living Wabi Sabi: Celebrating the Perfectly Imperfect Uniqueness of You and Me

For those of us with overwhelming intrinsic perfectionism, or for those who are raising a gifted child who exhibits destructive perfectionism, Living Wabi Sabi: The True Beauty of Your Life is a must read. Taro Gold shares the wisdom passed down to him during a visit with his Japanese grandmother.

“The simple wisdom of living Wabi Sabi shows us that our hearts already hold everything we need to be happy. It celebrates the perfectly imperfect uniqueness of you and me and everything, revealing the joy, creativity, and empowerment of imperfection through an ancient way of looking at life: the way of Wabi Sabi.” These words, written on the back cover of the book, illustrate the power of this book for parents of a gifted child. While perfectionism is an innate aspect of many gifted people, learning to live Wabi Sabi allows us to celebrate our uniqueness and appreciate our imperfections.

April 3, 2012 at 1:57 pm Leave a comment

Amplified and Misunderstood: Positive Gifted Identity Development and the Role of the Parent

Here an article that appeared in the Summer 2009 issue of “Talent” published by Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development.

Amplified and Misunderstood:Positive Gifted Identity Development and the Role of Parents

by Paula Wilkes, Ph.D. & Mark Szymanski Ph.D.

Positive gifted identity development is a dynamic process that is both nourished and diminished by interactions with family, peers, school, and culture. All of those interactions impact self-perception and ultimately the child’s identity. By understanding a gifted child’s innate personality traits, and by teaching them to use good habits of mind, parents can nurture a positive identity development process that can lead to the child becoming an emotionally healthy lifelong learner who is an information seeker, a problem solver, and a creative producer. These are all skills and dispositions our children will need to be successful in the 21st century.

CTD: Why have you chosen to focus on sensitivity, perfectionism, introversion/extroversion, and curiosity, the four amplified ways of being?

Gifted children often possess amplified ways of being that have the potential to impact both their work in school and sense of self. We focus on those amplified and innate ways of being because they are often misunderstood by others. From a very young age, many gifted children hear negative comments such as: “You’re too sensitive!” “Why are you so shy?” “Can’t you sit still for more than a minute?” “Don’t be such a perfectionist!” “Stop asking so many questions!” Those comments can inhibit the development of a positive gifted identity. Parents who do not understand their gifted child’s amplified ways of being may unknowingly respond in ways that have a negative impact on a child’s self-perception. Helping gifted kids understand, modulate, and make effective use of their amplified ways of being will enhance their academic growth and social development, and will become the foundation of a positive gifted identity. A positive gifted identity will increase the chances that existential depression and other emotional crises often faced by gifted children can be dealt with in a healthy manner.

CTD: Can you explain what you mean by sensitivity?

Many gifted children are highly sensitive and intense. That sensitivity may include a strong sense of justice as well as empathy for people and animals. Kazimierz Dabrowski outlined five specific areas in which a gifted child could exhibit “overexcitability” (what we are referring to as “amplified ways of being”) as a natural, organic trait of his or her giftedness.
o     Psychomotor –This includes a heightened surplus of physical energy or rapid speech and movement. It can often be misinterpreted as ADHD.
o     Sensual – What is “normal” to the average person can be seen or felt as an assault to the nervous system of a child with amplified senses. This can include amplified reactions to sights, sounds, smells, and touch (such as scratchy labels). On the other hand, children with amplified senses may be quite moved by sensual beauty.
o     Emotional – Some gifted children may be seen as “drama queens and kings” because of their amplified reactions to experiences that are either highly enjoyable or unpleasant. While often seen as over-reactions, these responses are often within the “normal” range for emotionally sensitive children.
o     Imaginational – Vivid imaginations taken to an extreme can cause these gifted kids to seem like perpetual daydreamers. At times they may seem like they have a hard time distinguishing between reality and fantasy.
o     Intellectual – Getting wound up about new ideas and experiences is a common amplification experienced by gifted children. They love to try new and exciting puzzles and challenges in their areas of expertise.

CTD: How might amplified introversion or extroversion be misunderstood by parents and teachers?

Gifted children frequently display amplified introversion or extroversion. In both cases, this way of being is their preferred way of processing information. Extroverts are energized when they are engaged with others. They process their ideas through interaction; as a result, they are often seen as too talkative and unable to wait their turn during a discussion. They may also be mislabeled as having ADHD. Introverts, on the other hand, are energized when they are alone. They process their ideas internally; as a result, they don’t have a great need to share their ideas with others. Gifted introverts may go unnoticed by teachers who see them as shy or slow thinking and withdrawn. Although most people are extroverts, the higher the IQ of a gifted child, the greater chance the child is an introvert.

CTD: What impact does perfectionism have on gifted development?

There are actually two different types of perfectionism, intrinsic and extrinsic. Gifted children are often cautioned about their perfectionism, however, intrinsic perfectionism is a positive trait when it challenges children to extend their understanding and skills. It is a negative trait when it interferes with the learning process, leads to debilitating procrastination, or results in social and emotional difficulties.

Extrinsic perfectionism is not an organic trait. It is inappropriately created and nourished by parents and teachers. Young gifted children are eager to please the adults in their lives. When they are praised for their perfect papers, praised for their large vocabularies, and praised for their ability to read chapter books at a young age, they believe that they are “worthy” when they are perfect and capable of doing extraordinary things. This can cause gifted kids to be embarrassed, angry, and/or fearful when they aren’t able to get 100% on a test or when they are faced with a challenge that doesn’t allow them to demonstrate perfection. Extrinsic perfectionism can be debilitating because it can put gifted kids in a box of competence that doesn’t allow them to take the risks necessary for healthy intellectual and emotional development.

CTD: If curiosity killed the cat, what does it do for gifted kids?

Curiosity helps gifted kids discover their passions and stumble upon new discoveries. This amplified way of being can manifest itself in a variety of ways including asking lots of questions and needing to touch and explore things of interest. While curiosity may have killed the cat, it gives life to the lives of gifted kids. This amplified desire to seek information should be nurtured by parents and teachers in order to support and encourage behaviors that lead to life-long learning.

CTD: What first steps can parents take to support the positive identity development of their gifted children?

Let your children know you love and understand them. Help them learn to modulate and make effective use of their amplified ways of being. Be an advocate! Share this information with other people. Gifted children deserve to be amplified AND understood.

Positive Gifted Identity Development Resources

  • Habits of Mind website (
  • MindWare Games ( (Flow Experiences)
  • Aron, Elaine. (2002). The highly sensitive child. New York: Broadway Books.
  • Aron, Elaine. (1996). The highly sensitive person: How to thrive when the world overwhelms you. Bridgewater, New Jersey: Replica Books.
  • Belknap, Martha. (2006). Stress relief for kids: Taming your dragons. Duluth, MN:
    Whole Person Associates.
  • Biel, Lindsey and Nancy Peske. (2005). Raising a sensory smart child. New York: Penguin Books.
  • Brooks, Robert and Sam Goldstein. (2003). Nurturing resilience in our children. New York: Contemporary Books.
  • Brooks, Robert and Sam Goldstein. (2001). Raising resilient children. New York: Contemporary Books.
  • Buckingham, Marcus and Donald Clifton. (2001). Now, discover your strengths. New
    York: Free Press.
  • Chopra, Deepak. (1997). The seven spiritual laws for parents: Guiding your children to success & fulfillment. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.
  • Costa, Art and Kallik. (2009). Leading and learning with habits of mind: Sixteen
    essential characteristics for success. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
  • Desetta, Al, (editor). (2005). The courage to be yourself: True stories by teens about
    cliques, conflicts, and overcoming peer pressure. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit
  • Halsted, Judith. (1994). Some of my best friends are books. Dayton, OH: Ohio
    Psychology Press. (Bibliotherapy; annotated bibliography)
  • Hanh, Thich Nhat. (2008). Mindful movements: Ten exercises for well-being. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
  • Heller, Sharon. (2002). Too loud, too bright, too fast, too tight. New York: Broadway HarperCollins Publishers.
  • Laney, Marti Olsen. (2005). The hidden gifts of the introverted child. New York: Workman Publishing.
  • Lerner, Stephanie. (2005). Kids who think outside the box: Helping your unique child
    thrive in a cookie-cutter world. New York: AMACOM.
  • Piechowski, Michael. (2006). “Mellow out,” they say. If I only could. Intensities
    and sensitivities of the young and bright. Madison, WI: Yunasa Books.
  • Welsh, David. (1997). The boy who burned too brightly. Fort Worth, Texas: Alisam Press.
  • Zeff, Ted. (2004). The highly sensitive person’s survival guide. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

April 1, 2012 at 12:19 am Leave a comment

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