by Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein

We have known that in any state of enchantment there is some degree of magic and the unknown: the Enchanted Forest looms dark and mysterious in fairy tales throughout the ages; princesses enchanted in fairy tales were touched by magic, whether for good or for evil. How could a kiss turn a toad into an enchanted prince? All of us who, as children, enjoyed fairy tales certainly believed a kiss could create a prince or awaken a princess who had been asleep for a hundred years. We could accept the idea of enchantment.

Many scientists of human behaviors recognize that we do not yet and perhaps never can fully understand human nature. I have become more and more convinced that we do not. For example, what interests me is that we do not fully understand pathology in our science of psychology while we have not tried hard enough to recognize and understand what I call enhanced ego-states, or happiness.

When I first began to analyze data from the women I interviewed, I kept trying to understand how their enhanced adult lives evolved from the childhoods they talked about. I found that although there seemed to be some clear connections, many others were not clear at all. This mystery further influenced my choice of THE ENCHANTED SELF as a term to express these positive ego-states.

The capacities of these women to reclaim positive aspects of their childhood while discarding the dysfunction that was often also present was astounding to me. It seemed as if a magic wand had been tapped on the women's heads in their adult lives. I say this because many of the women w ere not naturally introspective. They did not seem to be aware that they had been able to reach into positive aspects of their childhoods to realize their adult dreams and to live vital lives much of the time. For example, Sally had grown up in a cold, dysfunctional household. She had promised herself that as an adult, she would do things very differently from her parents. Her mother was a busy business woman who was cold and distant, while her father was extremely engaging to strangers but quiet and removed at home. In childhood, Sally was able to find her ENCHANTED SELF through her grandparents. As she got older, she would go back to their home after school, where she was nurtured with milk and cookies and allowed to watch television in a happy, comfortable environment until she had to go to her home.

Sally talked lovingly of her visits with her grandparents. With pleasure she mentioned being with them, and when she was left alone there she would "dance with a doorknob" as she rocked and rolled to a teenage show that she watched on TV every afternoon. She often felt let down when it was time to return to her own home.

In adulthood, Sally no longer "danced with a doorknob," but she found ways to honor her pledge to create a more meaningful and warm family life for her own children. Her children are adolescents now and feel free to bring their friends to spend time at her home. She doesn't push them away as she had been pushed away. Rather, she enjoys watching TV, playing games and talking and sharing with them as well as with their friends. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, she lies on the bed with them, laughing and gossiping. The capacity in her adult life to spend this joyful time with her teenagers overcomes the isolation she felt in childhood. Sally integrates the warmth and spunk of the times she spent at her grandparents into her adult ego. For Sally, there is no need to analyze this situation. She simply feels pleasure in having corrected the damaging childhood she'd experienced.

It's hard to say exactly when these states become internalized as THE ENCHANTED SELF. More than likely, this will vary from person to person and is highly dependent on variations in cognitive development, particularly in memory. However, even for those people who have had less than adequate parenting, there are moments when children feel good about themselves: the baby is elated as she takes her first steps, the toddler feels joy as she rides a tricycle 20 feet down the driveway. Children are excited the day they first earn their own money for small jobs, the day they save a kitten from a tree and return it to its grateful owner, the day they successfully down the bully on the playground.

Of course, as one acquires more language, one may hold onto these positive moments and remember them. Also, the capacity for a sense of well-being has been experienced and, can be tapped into again in adulthood. This capacity to draw from positive memories seems especially magical when we realize that most people's moments of pure childhood joy have been surrounded by dysfunction.

I hope you will take some time to think about the magical qualities of the human mind to sort and reclaim the positive in our experiences.  Rather than throwing out the baby with the bathwater, look for the golden moments in your own childhood-when you felt strong, powerful, happy, elated or perhaps full of potential.  Honor them by recalling them, telling them to your children, or others and maybe finding ways to go back to them again!  You may wish to look at the archives for my newsletters on my site at www.enchantedself.com.  I often given ideas as to ways to reclaim by reinvention the best of yourself!  I wish you success.

Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, originator of THE ENCHANTED SELF®, a method of bringing delight and meaning into everyday living, invites you to view her new line of ENCHANTED WOMAN products, downloadable e-books, and free gifts at http://www.enchantedself.com.

Visit her BLOG at : http://www.enchantedself.typepad.com/

THE ENCHANTED SELF® is a registered trademark of Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein.