Forget Being "Special" … Unique is Better!
It can be a very difficult thing to come to terms with being “ordinary”.
Often, we even have very well-developed defenses that keep us from avoiding this realization. In fact, the denial of our own ordinary being can be one of the things that propels us forward into our life during that phase that Jung refers to as “the first adulthood”, when we are seeking to be independent of our family of origin, and to get on out into our own career, our own home and perhaps our own family life. The belief that “we’re special” or “destined for greatness” can be an essential motivator that helps us to overcome obstacles, and that draws us on into the challenges and the dance of life.
For most people, however, the realization will come sooner or later that we are not destined to become the world’s richest person, the President of the United States, or the first astronaut to land on Mars. Sometimes the realization can be heart-wrenching. This is especially true when this realization is accompanied by the feeling that “my life is of no real significance”.
But is it true that just because my life is not “special” or grandiose, that it cannot be a good life? That is the message that we get from the media all the time. It is a message that is constantly used today to sell products: you are not special, you are just nondescript, and the same as everyone, but if you buy our product, we can make you special.
Unfortunately, it seems that the English texted version of this IBM ad is not longer available on YouTube. The last frame, which in German carries the text “Was macht sie so besonders?” translates in English to “What makes you so special?” The implication is, that if there isn’t anything that makes you or I special, it’s a tragedy. But have no fear, you can buy your special-ness from us…
Although I may not be “special”, I am unique. There is no one else in all the universes or kalpas who will ever be me. This is not provable: it is just something that we know, by virtue of our own being. By virtue of understanding ourselves from the inside.
This is a vital truth. How much anxiety and depression is caused in Oakville or Missisauga and suburban communities around the world by the crushing sense that I am just like everybody else?
I have to decide: am I going to derive my value from the inside, or from the outside? Has someone told my story for me, or do I discover my own myth, in the depths of myself? My uniqueness is to be found there: in my dreams, my imaginings, my deepest secrets.
Have I ever really taken the time and the effort to understand who I am? Or do I just have a fairly superficial picture of myself, e.g., “I’m a mother” or “I’m an accountant”?
Do I look at the story of my life as an evolving, growing thing, something with zest and colour and richness? Or have I just despaired and accepted that I just don’t get what I want in my life, and that there isn’t anything really fulfilling about it?
Do I take my own inwardness seriously? Can I ever be filled with wonder that I exist?
When are the moments in my life when I have felt my own uniqueness and reality? In those moments when I feel the unique mystery and reality of my life and myself? Who am I at that moment?
“What a piece of work is a man”, Shakespeare said. If he had been alive today, he would have used more inclusive language, but he isspeaking a profound truth: the secret of our own being is so intricate, so mysterious. If you can do so at all today, I encourage you to take a few moments and just to be with yourself.
Good case studies is about bringing the reality of myself into the forefront, where I can see it and grasp it. Good case studies allows my uniqueness to be held up to me in a mirror. In this sense it is an exploration, an adventure, and a journey to wholeness.
Brian Collinson, www.briancollinson.ca