Listen to this case history that appears in Dr. Paul Tournier's book, "The Strong and the Weak." It is the story of a family in which there were father, mother and several children. The father had a problem with one of his daughters, a little girl who was very quiet, very shy, unable to express herself outwardly. The father was an outgoing person and most of the other children were too. And he was puzzled and bewildered and confused about this, but he tried to understand. On one occasion he gave his quiet little daughter a present. It was an elegant little glass elephant on a gold chain, to put around her neck. He put it down on the table in front of her and said, "I’ve brought you this present." Well, she was just overwhelmed! Her mouth dropped open and she stared at this beautiful, beautiful thing. As Dr. Tournier said, "It shone more beautifully than any star of Bethlehem because it symbolized her father’s love for her." She sat there for several minutes, staring at this thing, unable to speak. Then she got up and went into the other room to try to tell her mother what had happened. When she came back she was thunderstruck because she saw her beautiful little elephant dangling from her sister’s neck. The father said, in a kind of offhanded way, "Well, you didn’t want it so I gave it to your sister." Didn’t want it? He wasn’t listening! He wasn’t listening to the joy of her silence.
He hadn’t listened enough to this child to know who she was and how she expressed herself. And years later she was in therapy, trying with her analyst to trace back to the tragic feeling she had that no one was listening down through the years.
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