Dec 5, 2007

"Enchanted" with our specialness

Like thousands of Americans last weekend we went to see the Disney movie “Enchanted” with our two teenage daughters. We love a good a fairy tale and this one did not disappoint us.

These days though, I can’t help but interpret plots through the lens of A Course in Miracles. This one made for an interesting case-study.

The movie begins with an animated 10 minute glimpse of Giselle, an ordinary girl in the kingdom of Andalusia. She lives in the forest with dozens of little animals that magically help her perform her daily tasks. Everything is blissful and effortless in this fairy-tale world.

Giselle dreams of finding her soul-mate and ‘love’s true kiss;’ the prince, who happens to be hunting in the forest, stumbles upon her and immediately they recognize the love in each other’s heart and decide to get married the next day and live ‘happily ever after.’

The next day Giselle arrives in the palace in her wedding gown ready for her royal wedding, but the evil queen, the prince’s stepmother, fearing to lose her throne, pushes her down a bottomless well sending her to a place ‘where there are no happily-ever-afters.’ This place is modern time New York City.

Giselle comes out a man-whole in the middle of a busy New York City street. Coming from fairyland where good intentions reign and everyone lives happily, she’s ill-equipped to handle the ups and downs – mostly downs – of the real world. I won’t go too much into the story line, but what was most interesting to me was that after a couple of days in the city Giselle begins to appreciate the contrasts. She begins to value the variety of people and the range of emotions.

She meets Robert, a down to earth divorcee who introduces her to emotions she’s never had before - like anger, sadness and fear. Giselle becomes so seduced by the complexity of emotions available in the real world, that when her prince comes to rescue her, she’s not so sure she wants to go back to Andalusia where everything is happy and simple. The prince seems too one dimensional now. While in Andalusia she had known the Prince loved her because she “knew what was on the Prince’s heart,’ now that he has found her, she asks him for a ‘date’, in which, she explains, ‘we can talk about our likes and dislikes and our differences.’

Giselle gets so hooked on ‘specialness,’ which is the term the Course uses for our attachment to our individuality, that she is willing to give up a peaceful life of unending love and happiness for a life of contrasts. She is thrilled the first time she feels anger, because now she has something against which to measure her happiness. As she gets more and more involved in the world she is no longer able to use the magic that made tasks so easy, but it seems like a small price to pay for the excitement of living in a world where you never know what's going to happen.

In a way, we are Giselle. We left a state of perfect joy – a state of non-duality - where all is good, in favor of a seemingly exciting life of opposites. We continue to reinforce this choice as we identify ourselves with everything that is special or different about us: our body, our talents, our mis-fortunes, our stories, and our past. The Course tells us that "Comparison must be an ego device, for love makes none. Specialness always makes comparisons. It is established by a lack seen in another, and maintained by searching for, and keeping clear in sight, all lacks it can perceive." (Ch24 II 1:1-4)

The movie reminded me of a disturbing recurring dream that began when I was about four and lasted throughout my teens. I floated in space high above the earth perfectly content. I didn’t need air, food, or water and there were no threats or fear. For a while I enjoyed the freedom as I floated in between the stars perfectly content. But after a while it would dawn on me that I was immortal and that this was what I would experience for eternity. The thought of eternity - which I saw as boring and uninteresting - caused me great anxiety and would wake me up completely unsettled.

Though I’ve overcome the dream, I am beginning to see how much our choice to be here is related to our fear of awakening. The Course says (CH24 II 6:5) "This is the only 'cost' of truth: You will no longer see what never was, nor hear what makes no sound. Is it a sacrifice to give up nothing, and to receive the Love of God forever?" Yet because we are so rooted in our human experience we cannot conceive of being without it.

As I choose to identify with the person in the mirror, I notice how attached I am to my identity. Like Giselle, if I had the choice, this is exactly where I’d stay! Yet, there is a part of me – obscured as it may be - that knows where I belong. As students of the Course we practice forgiveness and letting go of our attachment to illusions to begin to let go of our identification with our ego.

A Course in Miracles does not ask us to give up anything. It simply asks us to become aware of our attachments and how they cause us pain so that one day we will see the benefit of choosing again in favor of permanent Peace and Love, which is our Kingdom and our inheritance.


  1. My son is currently going through his first devastating "true love" relationship and all the heartache that entails when you're in your early 20s. Talk about being mesmerized by pain. Ouch! It's hard to watch. But I try to think of the few tools I can give him that he's able to acccept and I put them out there in terms that make sense to him, hoping that eventually in some timespace or other, he'll hear me. I'm sure you know how hard it is to stand by and let your children learn their own lessons, have their own pain, and endure their own trials.

    Your post reminds me of Eckhart Tolle's theory of the "pain body" and how enchanting it can be.

  2. Thank you for sharing, Marian. I remember well the feeling of heartbreak. Though it hurts, it makes you feel alive in some bizarre way and you just don't want to let it go. I remember thinking "it's better to feel this, than nothing at all." As you say, the hardest thing we do as mothers is watch our children learn their own lessons.

    I haven't heard of Eckart Tolle's theory of "pain body." I'll look that up!

  3. That's exactly it—the feeling of pain is so intense that it's intoxicating to the ego. It makes the ego feel like a victim—so solid, so real.

    Yes, I don't know if I really buy into the whole pain body thing—I almost think it's something else happening but I haven't put any energy into figuring that out. At any rate it's the idea that there is a part of us that gains its identity through pain, feeds on pain, and at certain times it becomes active and begins to create and thrive on situations that will intensify the pain.

  4. As egos we want to be victimized and we actively look for situations in which to be victimized, because as long as we are in 'victim mode' we have surrendered all power to choose again -- which is what keeps the ego alive. The ego finds purpose in pain!

    The first step to recovery might be to try to own - if not the situation - at least the feelings. This is extremely difficult for young people.

  5. Dear Aileen,

    Thank you for this great post. I have a discussion group about ACIM (in the Dutch language) I have posted a quiz on that group that asks how many people are truly willing to exchange the drama here on earth for heaven where nothing is happening and it is just eternal peace and love. My guess is that most people, even those who study ACIM prefer the drama.

  6. Roland, Thank you for stopping by. I'm not surprised that most people would choose drama and probably those who say they don't, unconsciously do too. We know we want drama when we choose to be unsettled by the situations that show up in our lives.

    I wish I could read your blog!