You Have to Open Your Own Egg


Larus fuscus - newly hatched chicks on Flat Holm

Are you dreading a family get-together because there will be someone with whom you don’t get along — to put it mildly? But do you hope that you can get that person to change by well-placed comments and suggestions?

I wish you well, but the truth is that you can’t change anyone, only yourself. In Healing Relationships is an Inside Job I put it this way:

Many children raised on a farm have tried to help a chicken hatch and have learned a valuable lesson in the process. You can’t. A chick has to hatch itself!

After eggs have been incubated in a temperature range that protects the growing embryo, the unhatched bird uses a temporary egg tooth to crack or pip the eggshell that has sheltered the growing chick for several weeks. It begins by pecking a single hole, resting, and then pecking again. It keeps this up until it has created a hole large enough in which it can enter the world and free itself of its confinement. Exhausted from its efforts, it lies panting and gaining strength until it’s able to stand on its own.

It is easy to feel sympathetic for a newly hatched chick flopping from side to side and to decide you’ll help the next chick come out easier. Unfortunately, if you do, it is unlikely to survive. There is something in the process of hatching that gives the chick strength to grow and take its place in the world. Without that personal struggle, it can’t make it.

People are like that, too. When someone attempts to do our growing for us, we do not develop the strength to stand on our own. The storms of life require each of us to develop an internal will to navigate our way in the world successfully.

That is why in this book . . . I stress the importance of doing your own growing, of stretching yourself, so you can create a climate in which the other person can do her own growing and stretching as well. Learning to communicate effectively and to resolve dis­agreements creates the possibility that both of you can expand yourselves and your relationship and make a difference in the world.

I learned about the way chicks need to crack open their own shells many years ago when visiting my sister-in-law, who kept a stack of Smithsonian Institute Magazines in her bathroom. Have always wanted to use it as a metaphor for people and in my book it came in handy.

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