Wayne Muller Quotes: Being Special in Importance and/or Woundedness

Wayne Muller

Grandiosity and Importance

“As we grew, we began to feel responsible for how everything around us turned out– the happiness and suffering of our parents, our spouses, our friends, our colleagues and our children.  One of the reasons we learned to judge ourselves so mercilessly is that we held ourselves to a much higher standard than the rest of humanity.  Others were allowed to fail, to falter, to seek the help of others; we, on the other hand, were required to do it all perfectly, by ourselves, without a mistake, without the aid of anyone else.” 

“When we take on the mantle of “special,” we invariably delude ourselves with the measure of our own importance.  Seduced by the notion that our work is indispensable to the continuation of the species, we invariably feel tired, frightened and alone, holding onto a deeply private suffering that no one can touch.  Only by letting go of our inflated sense of importance may we begin to find the companionship and healing that comes with being simply human.”

Grandiosity and Woundedness

“It is hard for any of us to let go of feeling broken.  As long as we take certain pride in how wounded and misunderstood we were as children of our family pain and dysfunction, the more tenaciously we hold onto our conviction that we are special.  But what if we are no longer sick, no longer handicapped?  What if we have simply become addicted to the idea of being especially ill– to the point that when someone accuses us of being ordinary, with no special needs or problems, we feel slighted?”

“For several weeks I playfully accused Doug [his client]) of being the most ordinary person I had ever met.  One day he came in and said to me, “You know, I have been trying on the idea of being ordinary and at first I felt small and afraid, angry that no one was paying attention to me.  But when I stopped working so hard at being special, I realized no one was paying attention to me, and I could just be who I was.  I started to feel relaxed, even calm inside.  Even when it lasted only a few minutes, I felt incredibly free.”


How would you feel if someone told you you were ordinary?  What would you think?

Do you hold on to the idea of being special in either your importance or your woundedness?  What would your life be like if you could let those attitudes and thoughts go?


From Legacy of the Heart:  The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood by Wayne Muller, Simon and Schuster, 1992, pages 74-84.

7 thoughts on “Wayne Muller Quotes: Being Special in Importance and/or Woundedness

  1. I think words such as ‘special’ and ‘ordinary’ are quite tricky Karuna; they are loaded in one sense or the other, neither loading ever being able to convey the actuality of what we are. One could claim with some justification that each of us is unique, with an exclusively held combination of needs and qualities; though when everyone is unique, does uniqueness lose its meaning? The same is true of ordinariness; so if we say that 9/10 people are ordinary or normal, then we deny both their inherent uniqueness and also any difference from others.

    I think we have to unpack self-centredness as being the issue here – the preoccupation that an individual may have with their own narrative, its needs and inclinations. Certainly it is so that the self-centred person can seldom ever “feel relaxed, even calm inside”, because there’s always an over-weaning sense of a denied entitlement to something, beyond which state they cannot escape as we cannot escape what we are. I wonder if Muller is really pointing to the dropping of self-concern when he talks about accepting ordinariness?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that special and ordinary are tricky words. They are also trigger words. I, like Mueller, have found them helpful as people do their spiritual and/or therapy work

      Talking about special and ordinary in this way can promote people in looking at any sense of entitlement they have and also in learning to shift from top/bottom, good/bad, right/wrong ways of thinking.

      I do believe everyone is unique. People will be different in what their uniqueness are but the fact that they are unique is universal. There is nothing inherently wrong with the word special but I think it is best used when it comes from the attitude “I am special and so is everyone else.”

      Thanks so much for commenting here. I was hoping the quotes would result in a discussion like this! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. @Karuna and @Hariod there is something in this judgement of ordinary and special. I find it difficult to accept as one being better than the other. That said, the belief that I am enough even if I’m “just” ordinary seems a better position in relative terms to the believe that I “need to be special” to be OK. SInce if being ordinary is not OK then there is inherent belief that I am not enough alone and without certain outcomes. So I belief there is great relief from changing perspective. I know that for me this has been very true.
    However, in this new judgement is still judgement. For me I can see a self deprecating dis-empowering attachment to believing that I am not enough contained in the concept that “I am ordinary.”
    Even as I can except my lot in life and live a bit happier just being ordinary I am still judging myself.
    Here in lies my thought for today on this topic. As long as judgement remains it is a reflection of my living in the past and fear of the future. So, I look for ways to get out of self judgement and self comparison.
    To be happy and joyful in this moment I must feel good. If feeling ordinary gains me relief from stress, anxiety, and self doubt then it is good. For me the focus I’m finding is to stop with the comparisons. To find the value inherent. Live with no grievances knowing that love and joy are my inheritance from the creative source.
    This may seem to some as full of platitudes and arbitrary ignorance of values and relation. But I find it quite the contrary. From a place of inherent value each moment I’m finding my creative energy is further expanded. When I find myself fighting judgments and using them to “accept” the past I’m realizing I’m still stuck there. When I’m stuck in the past I have the most trouble being present in the now.
    So rather I be ordinary or extraordinary is really immaterial. What is material is to live in joy and love. From this place miracles are possible. I have no way of knowing how those miracles will be perceived. Only that the close I get to allowing source energy to work through me the more I am free of worry about my place in the world.
    Love to you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I believe the process of examining ways we make ourselves “special” is only a step on the healing journey and agree that learning to let go of the judgments and comparisons altogether is definitely a part of the journey as well.

      I think moving beyond any ways we are stuck in unhelpful attitudes will help us move towards the expansion you are talking about. I’m glad we have a life time, or perhaps many lifetimes, to learn what we need to or want to learn. Life is good. Learning is good.

      Thanks so much for commenting.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I should also add that addressing the issues I raised in this post is not something that happens early in people’s healing journey. Generally people have a lot of anger, grief and fear to work on first. Or sometimes they are so far removed from their feelings that they have to find the anger, grief and fear!

        This sounds like the makings for a future post!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I like the comment about being “unique” because in our language we tend to use words that are judgments, aren’t they? We tell our children how “special” they are. We heard it from our parents too and it came from a place of love. Learning to do better, achieve more, stand out are often what gives the fuel to survive growing up…until you fall. I find that failing, falling, stopping to take stalk of my life has enabled me to learn, accept me in all my imperfections as perfect in my ordinary way. http://wp.me/p3ia4v-2GP

    It’s “okay” as Virgin Satire has shouted for so many years. But as you say, we do not get to that “place” at the same time. It is a continual struggle along this journey of life. I saw a video the other day that compared Nature with Grace. Nature needs, possesses, judges but grace is forever giving.

    Great post, Karuna, and I have no doubt could conjure up a series of posts, hugs, cl


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