MysteryShrink Shorts: What Makes You So Special?

party little girlMysteryShrink Shorts: What Makes You So Special?

One of my young stepdaughters, tears in her eyes, had handed me a lowly Honorable Mention ribbon after a riding contest which had gone poorly. When I greeted her all aglow with compliments, she’d asked with a tad of bitterness, “How can you say that? How? I’m not special. I’m not good at this!”

At that moment I flashed on how I’d wondered the same thing when my mother showered me with compliments after an embarrassingly awful showing at a contest. How could she still smile at me?  Was she crazy? Blind?

My mother’s response (which I passed along) had gone something like the following.

Me (probably seven-years-old): “Why do you say those nice things, Mom? What you’re saying isn’t true. I wasn’t special. I was awful. Almost all the other girls did better than me.”

Mother:  “Barbara, there will always be girls who perform better than you do. There will always be girls who are prettier, who are thinner, who have better hair, more friends, more money and everything that goes with having money, girls who are smarter, more charming, successful and better at managing their lives.”

Me: “But–” If her intent was to bolster my sense of self, these reminders were not helping.

Mother: “Being smarter or prettier or even more likable than other girls isn’t what makes you special in this world. You are special because of the people who love you just as you are. Because you are you and you belong to these people forever. You don’t love me because I’m the smartest or prettiest. I’m certainly not the best mother.”

Me: “But–”

Mother: “You love me because I am yours. What makes us special in the world is the relationships we have in the world with people who love now and always no matter how we ‘turn out’ us as we are. That specialness is the sort of specialness that counts.”

**At the time I’m writing this I’m putting together a series on family process and sibling position using the movie, The Darjeeling Limited as the example source. I’ve included this piece because the three brothers in the movie (this will make sense when main articles are out) have tried desperately and unsuccessfully to develop a sense of self by doing something out in the world to win their parents’ attention. In their situation the idea of securing their parents’ love is out of the question as neither parent has or seems interested in having a ‘special’ relationship with the sons. The boys are lost. But remarkably, the eldest brother—realizing that they will never have a sense of being special in an intimate family way with their parents—has launched a last ditch effort (across India cooped together on The Darjeeling Limited) to establish the three boys as true brothers with a special connection.







I'm a psychologist who goes to way too many movies, for the same reason I chose this profession. I love stories. I use movies and novels working with people in my office and during speaking engagements. "You should write some of this down," I kept being told. So, this is it, folks.

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