“Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight”
It was an August evening in 1953. I was sitting on mom’s lap in our back yard in East Meadow, Long Island, New York. This is when she informed me how “wishing upon a star can make your wishes come true.” I wasn’t quite four-years- old when mom taught me the song: “Starlight, Star Bright…..” I learned that there were certain rules that needed to be followed to have a successful ‘wish-making’ event.
When vectoring in on the chosen star, your eyes must not drift away from the targeted heavenly body until the ‘chant’ is completed. Afterwards you need to close your eyes while making the wish. Starlight, star bright…. Immediately, I’d be transported into the world of magic. I was assured that wishing upon a star could make my wish come true. During my early years magical thinking provided my innocent mind with limitless possibilities for all the aspirations and yearnings my four-year-old brain could conjure up. Very quickly, I didn’t need any prompting from mom. My wishes took on a life of their own. The wishes contained all the innocent desires that needed fulfillment. Most of my wishes involved something about the girl who lived down the block. I wasn’t actually jealous of her. Being jealous could be interpreted as meaning I didn’t want her to have it. My feelings were pure, unadulterated envy. I didn’t have mean-spirited feelings of resentment towards her, nor did I begrudge her ownership of the items and attributes. I just coveted what she had. She was trim and petite (whereas I was obese) and had beautiful dresses and long curly hair.
As I began to get older, my wishes matured. Most often my wishes were about overcoming some difficulty, and the most common theme was something about wanting to be rescued. From what or who eluded me at the time. I just remember being in a hopeless situation that needed to be resolved. Today, whenever I see that first star in the sky, feelings of joy and hope are elicited that are as awe inspiring today as they were 64 years ago. For over six decades when I happen to catch a glimpse of that first star glimmering faintly in the sunset, I’m left with no option than to wish upon it. The reaction is visceral and etched into my mind. I’m unable to deviate from this embedded habit. Early compliance has made this impossible.
This began to become a problem beginning in 1974 when I started to become interested in the field of psychology. In school we were taught how traditional theories in psychology contend that those who rely on making wishes do so as a way to influence or alter future events. This way of thinking is considered an attempt to have unmet needs realized. Psychologists abiding with this belief assume that relying on “magical thinking” compromises one’s ability to establish realistic goals. Furthermore, something like wishing upon a star can actually contribute towards “goal demotion” (Wishful thinking can feel so good there’s no need to make any actual change). Therefore, when the client relies on magical-type thinking to get his/her needs met, the goal of a traditional “talk therapist” (In my early academic life I was one of them) the focus of the therapy becomes helping the client turn away from the mystical towards a more logical approach for managing problems. Relying on wish-making to make things happen clearly has to be replaced with more functional problem-solving and goal-achievement strategies and tactics. By helping “magical thinkers” delve into the root of their problems, psychic damage carried over from one’s past can be resolved, hence more confidence of one’s ability to deal with problems in a more mature hence, realistic way.
I began to suspect how inappropriate my personal little habit could be for my future patients. If magical thinking could be psychologically damaging, it would be imperative for me to help people determine alternative ways for attaining emotional health. Rather than relying on wishes to get needs met, psychological health was contingent upon helping people pay accurate attention to their feelings. Personally, I began to consider how my personal star-wishing ritual had the earmarks compromising my own psychological health. Bordering on unprofessionalism I decided it would be appropriate to go underground with my Starlight ritual as soon as I saw how damaging it could be for my future patients. Unable to stop it myself, I became sneaky whenever I glimpsed the first star in the night sky. For years I hid my habit away from everyone.
Something happened in September of 1980 that would change all that. A life-altering event occurred that introduced me to another way of understanding how valuable wish-making could be in changing problematic behaviors in one’s life. During the following weeks, I intend to show a way to make sure virtually every wish you make can come true. I’ve got the formula to help you make that happen.
To be continued…