When I was a little girl, I wanted a miniature French doll in a catalogue. This doll pictured right here.
What wasn’t to love? The pink dress? The enormous matching pink bow in her hair? The pretty bisque porcelain face?
So, yes, after a lot of pleading, a family member ordered the doll for me. After a few weeks, the much-anticipated package arrived in the mailbox. I ripped that sucker open, expecting to see my beautiful pink French doll. And I was startled/disappointed by its reality.
It was technically the miniature French porcelain, in the pink dress, with the gigantic pink hair bow. But the face…
As you can see by the photo, her little French punim was a bit askew. A few years later, when I first saw Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica,” I noted the resemblance. There definitely was a distorted face thing going on here. No ear in the middle of her face, but, as I compared the doll with the catalogue image, there was a discrepancy.
It was then and there my family member taught eight-year-old me a life principle: “Things don’t look like they do in catalogues.”
It was also here where I learned these same family members could not believe the very advice they gave out.
This is Appealing
Let’s begin with coveting, shall we?
We covet what we see. It looks desirable. We see something and decide we want it.
The French doll was aesthetically appealing to me. Her face was beautiful; she was small. As a little girl, I wanted her.
The magical thinking concept, on a broader level, seems to equate aesthetics with solution. I found it noteworthy that my family member who ordered the doll for me, who uttered the statement, “Things don’t look like they do in catalogues,” still, however, bought into abusive and addictive dynamics. Rationalizing through mindsets of “It’s not so bad,” “I can handle it,” or “I want this more than I’ve wanted anything ever before” came into play.
Myopic tunnel vision, to the exclusion of everything else, was all numerous family members could engage in. They wanted the appealing thing to be the appealing thing, to stay the appealing thing.
And don’t we all want that?
It’s So Good, It Must Be True
After we’ve designated the chosen object of our coveting, next there is the determination that it’s so good, that it has such promise, that it, surely, must be true.
With the French doll, I believed the catalogue image; I had faith in it. I believed that’s what I’d be getting. I didn’t take into consideration that the dolls’ faces, one by one, would be hand-painted. There would be some variation, which, for me, included the “Guernica” face on my doll.
I expected the doll to be perfectly symmetrical and pretty. Exactly like the catalogue image.
Likewise, my family members counted on the premise of the “good on paper” focus of their attention. They focused on a happy marriage, a perfect child, certain realized dreams, like they were ordering them from a catalogue. There was so much hope pinned to the thing being the answer, there was no room for any other more complicated thought.
There was no room for imperfect life. No room for fallible human beings. No room for the reality of deception.
When it comes to magical thinking, it’s quite easy to be lulled into this assertion, isn’t it? We trust that we are getting what we’ve set our eyes on. No matter how jaded, intelligent, or experienced we claim to be, still, there is that naïve wish, that childlike wish, perhaps, we all seem to carry.
This Will Make My Life Perfect
Likewise, we can also trust in the illusion of perfection.
Ah, yes, the belief that this object of our affection will perfect our lives and remove all pain.
As a little girl, feeling lonely and overwhelmed by abusive family dynamics, looking at that catalogue page, with the French doll featured so beautifully on it, gave me something to hope for. Something to look forward to. If I had her in my life, maybe I could stop being lonely. I’d just play with her. Maybe, she could make up for the scariness I was confused by.
Yet, when she arrived, I was still lonely and scared. And it wasn’t because she didn’t look like how the catalogue photographed her. She could have been an exact replica of the image, perfect and beautifully crafted in every way. When I played with her, she couldn’t erase my reality.
She was just a doll.
My family members couldn’t seem to grasp that concept on a broader level.
Again, things like marriage, children, and financial security, in their three-dimensional reality, just did not look like they did “in the catalogue.” That magical thinking overpromised…and underdelivered.
The Promise Versus the Delivery
Each one of us is vulnerable to that magical thinking reality. It can be subtle; it’s not always about believing some obvious fairy tale. It’s the little mistaken thoughts and beliefs that can often wreak havoc. Each day can be another opportunity to believe “something” will come through for us. What is it today? A relationship? A shot at status or power? A purchase or a material possession? What looks great “in the catalogue?”
How devastated will we be when reality does not deliver its perfect, soothing solution, as promised?
That’s what it’s all about.
Life dictates we adjust to the imperfect, to the flawed human condition. That means there is no pristine catalogue image solving our lives. That means we’ll get the much-coveted thing with the Guernica face.
That means that we need to face ourselves and our issues, regardless of any catalogue, regardless of what things look like.
Accepting what is more than what we wish it was can give us a better shot at experiencing what we want in life.