Many of us never got to feel special…especially to those who mattered to us. We came to believe there was only so much special…only so much love…to go around and we were left out.
In my work with dreamers, a theme that comes up frequently in their dreams is the desire to be special…to be seen as unique…to be truly seen…the need to be seen somehow different from the rest…even better than…even the best.
When dreams reveal this and a dreamer acknowledges this desire there can a pinch to the ego…I want to be the best. When we can finally admit (allow in) this need, “I want to feel special” it can come as a whisper, almost an apology…a shame. Along with wanting to feel special comes a feeling badly that we even want be special, that somehow means we’re selfish.
And so we think we have to change something about ourselves, exhaust ourselves with self improvement projects so that we will be seen as special. We look with hooded eyes of jealousy at those who we believe are seen as special. We don’t understand what it is to be special. How can we be special if everyone else is special? This is the paradox of what it means to be special.
What if this very universal desire is universal because it is already speaking a truth…we want to feel special because some deep part of us already knows we are special and unique. But we have forgotten this truth and come to believe that we must not be special because we don’t feel special.
How did we develop such an impoverished view of ourselves that we then project this limitation onto all our relationships…and even with the divine? How can the divine unabashedly love this one and then in the same spirit breath unabashedly love another? We see this in our dreams all the time. A dream character, an inner teacher, an archetype, a beloved comes…and truly loves us and we feel it. We feel seen, loved…special exactly as we are…and then it slips away and our misunderstanding slips in…there can only be one special…so we need to be more special than…
Life brings us our teachers…always…if we are paying attention…and my teachers instruct me with great simplicty and clarity…in unexpected ways. I was 18, working full time as an Engineering Secretary. Knowing that Joe, who was in college, and I would be married soon, I took an additional job, at night, in the busy deli of our local grocery store. The woman training me, Trixie (real name), became my first teacher on what it means to be special…how all of us are special. The deli lines were long and each person, depending on their order to slice, scoop and weigh, could take quite a while. I immediately felt the pressure to move quickly, speed customers along…a line that seemed to have no end. But that line didn’t phase Trixie. She greeted each customer casually and calmly…her movements steady but not rushed. Her current customer for the next few minutes was the only person in her world…the most important…and then the next…and the next. Each felt attended to, listened to…seen. Those in line trusted that when it was their turn, that they, too, would be the center of her world. And none was more special than the other…but in that moment they knew they were the special one.
If a middle aged woman in a small suburb can help us remember we are each special…how can we expect less of the divine.
Being special is something deeper than a comparing ourselves to others, jockeying for position. It is a recognition of our own and each others uniqueness. We may have a hard time believing this let alone feeling it but this is what the divine sees in each of us…
Joseph Campbell says people find their way by questing, otherwise “…you’d follow someone else’s path, follow the well-tried ways. No one in the world was ever you before, with your particular gifts and abilities and possibilities. It’s a shame to waste those by doing what someone else has done.” (1)
Sister Miriam MacGillis speaks of this through language of the earth…
“…to think we can worship while extinguishing the revelation of the divine in the earth is illusion. Each interiority carries an aspect of the divine another doesn’t. Humans have the capacity to recognize it. As we probe the depths of the inner space of the human psyche, we’re starting to understand that. In other words, if you know who you are, if you know who your interiority is, your unique manifestation of life, if you’re in touch with that, and you’re aware of who you are, and you’re affirmed in that and you know you are good and lovable, then you are not threatened by me if I’m different.”(2)
When no one else is seeing us, recognizing our specialness then we have the need to create and perpetuate our own specialness and then it becomes pride, “the love of one’s own excellence” – St. Augustine…what a lonely impoverishment.
This paradox of how each of us is special…unique…the beloved…is not an easy one to come to terms with…it truly takes a long time. But our dreams…and the Beloveds populating them…are trustworthy when they evoke in us this feeling of being seen…being loved…being special.
(Image: Lauri Blank)
1. An Open Life-Joseph Campbell In Conversation with Michael Toms (@ jcf.org)
2. The Fate of the Earth by Miriam Therese MacGillis, O.P., 1986
Mary Jo Heyen is a Natural Dreamwork Practitioner working with clients throughout the country and abroad in person, phone or Skype. Learn more about her work with dreams at www.maryjoheyen.com or www.thenaturaldream.com