Growing Into Our Own


One of the most pervasive beliefs in our relationship lives is that we need to find or be with someone who can fill our emptiness. The craving comes in many forms: many women look for their Prince Charming, many men look for a beautiful woman that will complete them. We walk around like “hungry ghosts”, as the Buddhists say, hoping to fulfill our needs by teaming up with someone who seems to have what we don’t have.

Most couples end up together because the other seems to possess something that’s missing. Maybe you have trouble being social with others, and your wife or husband can make up for that. Maybe you feel incapable of taking care of yourself financially, so a partner who is good with money can provide. Maybe you have a hard time motivating yourself, so it seems easier to find someone who does it for both of you. Whatever it is that seems to be lacking, our partners sure should be able to give it to us. But it doesn’t work that way.

A wonderful way of reminding us how we all are looking for our “missing piece” is Shel Silverstein’s “The Missing Piece Meets the Big O.” Many of you may have known it for a long time, but I just came across it when reading Robert Moss’ “Active Dreaming.” Moss sees Silverstein’s story as an example of “soul making”: finding our essence, getting to the core of who we are without getting caught up in who we are supposed to be and what our ego tells us is wrong with us (or everybody else).

The story of the Big O is a parable about how to come into our own. It’s about a “missing piece” that’s looking to fit into someone else’s hole. On its way, it meets plenty of companions who are looking for a missing piece, but none of them really see it for what it is. They just want to be completed for themselves, just like the missing piece. Everyone is wandering about, trying to find completion, without really looking at themselves, or at who the other truly is. They all just want to get what they need, whatever the cost.

One day, the missing piece runs into the “Big O” – a round and smooth creature that isn’t looking for a missing piece. But it has some good advice: “You cannot roll with me”, it says. “But perhaps you can roll by yourself.” The missing piece is puzzled. It has sharp edges and cannot roll. But after some time it takes the Big O’s advice. It starts to pull itself up and flops over. And it does it again and again, until the sharp edges smooth out and it starts to roll. Awkwardly and uneven at first, but it rolls. And the more it practices, the rounder is gets. Until one day it is an O itself.

The Big O comes by. And then they roll together. It’s a wonderful story with a happy ending. Of course, the story that isn’t told is the pain and frustration that goes into learning how to roll. It’s hard to try and learn it by yourself. That’s what relationships are – they show us what our missing pieces are, and hopefully they will support and help us on our way to become whole.

About Gerti Schoen LP

Gerti Schoen Gerti Schoen is a psychotherapist for couples and individuals in private practice in NYC and Ridgewood, NJ. Her work has been informed by psychoanalytic thought, Imago Relationship Therapy, Mindfulness, Shamanic healing and Internal Family Systems Therapy. Before becoming a mental health professional, she had a fulfilling career as a journalist and writer in Germany. She has published two books, The Gentle Self and Buddha Betrayed.