Some of you may have read this story before, but it bears repeating because of what ensued years later.
Back in around 1961, my son Timothy attended the same prep school that my father graduated from, The Hill School. Timothy got a scholarship. He was deeply impressed at age thirteen by a course in religion, after which he came home on summer vacation resolved to attempt sainthood. He gave up his bed and slept on the floor; he became a vegetarian; he got a job that involved biking four miles to and fro doing garden work; he was obedient to his severe father, helpful to his mother, and patient with his three pesky sisters! This went on for about ten days to everybody’s astonishment.
One night, I happened to get up to go to the bathroom and passed his door. I heard sobbing. I knocked and entered. Timothy was banging his fists on the floor and tears were streaming down his face. “It’s not FAIR! It’s not FAIR!” he cried. I asked him what wasn’t fair. He sobbed, “I have tried so hard to be good, but now I have fallen into the greatest sin of all!” “What sin is that?” I asked. He replied, “I think I’m better than other people!”
I tried to console him and said we could talk about it in the morning. He calmed down and I went back to bed agreeing with him and praying for a solution come the next morning. I should add that this was a period in which I was immersed in reading and studying Jung.
When I got up, I went to the kitchen to make coffee and noticed the paper towel roll was down to the last sheet; when I took out the empty paper tube, the sunlight flashed through it and I had an AHA! So I took the tube and stuffed the end of it with the last sheet scrap and went to Timothy and asked him to look through it and tell me what he could see. “Duh,” he said grumpily. I whisked the paper out and told him to look again. “Duh!” he repeated. But then I shared the idea that the good that we do doesn’t come out of us but through us from our Divine Guest (Jung’s Self). So we have succeeded in becoming a clear pipe for a moment. Perhaps, he took this in. He graduated from Stanford as a philosophy major and an M.D. and today is an expert and compassionate psychiatrist and gerontologist.
Today, I keep an empty paper tube handy in my office because . . .
Many years later I was finally analyzing with the Jungian Dr. Edward C. Whitmont and also lecturing all over the country and sometimes getting great applause, etc. I said to Dr. Whitmont that I really feared inflation because I was delighted. His words were so helpful, and I need to share them! He said, “Don’t deny it!” I was amazed. Then he said, “Count to ten and offer it up!”
Phew! If we deny it, that is an ego game – see how humble I am! – but if you count to ten, you acknowledge the worth of the tube and send the rest back up where it came from. So, from then on, I would turn my back to the audience and hold up my arms and clap my hands, too. It worked like a charm, an instant cleansing.
Many of us have an awful time receiving compliments. Sometimes we ask ourselves what the secret agenda might be and the compliment goes past us, or we think if that person knew me as well as I know myself . . . ha, they must be stoopid! and the compliment goes thataway, and then we go out in the garden and eat worms – nobody loves me!
These days when I get a compliment, I turn it into flowers and take them to my Teacher.
I wrestled with this problem because I had known a clinical narcissist and thus went to great lengths to avoid any claim to anything including signing my poems. Dr. Edinger, with whom I corresponded, reproached me and said that one has to take responsibility for one’s creative output and I can see that now . . .
I hope some of these thoughts may be as helpful to some of you as they were to me. As usual, my help also comes down from the process hidden in that paper towel holder. It’s amazing what inanimate – ha! – objects can teach one!