Wishing Well

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It was August 2, 1974 when I learned to hide my wishes. Staring at a chocolate cake with five birthday candles on it, I heard my mom say, "Make a wish." With thoughts of a puppy filling my head, my mouth opened to share the news. However, I was struck silent by the screeching sound of my mother's voice yelling, "Don't share it! If you share your wish, it won't come true."

I was shocked and confused. My parents were the ones I needed on board to get a puppy. How would they know I wanted one if I didn't share it with them? But, being a good boy, I did as I was told and I kept that wish to myself. No puppy arrived.

This was the first time I learned that simple, yet pervasive idea that we are not supposed to share our wishes. Instead, we are to keep them a secret. This same message emerged time and again, over shooting stars, seeing 11:11 on the clock, or finding a four-leaf clover. "Don't share your wishes or they won't come true."

Fortunately I have evolved into a more critical consumer of conventional wisdom. As a clinical psychologist, I know the importance of communication and expressing our needs. In fact, much of the distress I see in my clients comes from fears of sharing desires, needs and, yes, wishes.

As social mammals, how are we supposed to maximize the likelihood of fulfilling our wishes, if we don't share them? It's not logical.


Take my 25 year-old cousin who was dying of cancer. He didn't achieve his wish to meet the New York Yankees. It turns out we had connections that could have gotten him in the locker room. But it wasn't until his last weeks of life that he finally shared, with urging, what he most wished for. By then, it was too late.

So, when those candles are burning on the cake, or you pick up that lucky penny, don't be shy. Share your wishes freely with anyone who will listen.

My wish? To have one shining moment on "Saturday Night Live." So, if you have any connections out there, let me know.  I'll keep wishing -- and asking.

With a Perspective, I'm Mitchel Adler.

Mitchel Adler is a licensed clinical psychologist and public speaker. He lives in Davis.