October 07, 2009

I'm good enough, I'm smart enough...and people like me!

Stuart Saves His Family, a 1995 comedy film directed by Harold Ramis

"I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!"~Stuart Smalley

What you're telling yourself may be true, Stuart, but people certainly didn't like your movie. This film grossed a pitable $911,310 at the box office when it was released over a decade ago. Sheesh! I had no idea it wasn't a box office smash hit skyrocketing Al Franken's celebrity as a comedian.

I nearly laughed myself happy watching Al Franken's portrayal of Stuart Smalley, a self-help guru who believed he had the answers to his family's problems. Maybe he did. Maybe Stuart could see the 'insanity' and still believed his family was worth rescuing from their inevitable serial crises.

Stuart's antics trying to save a family that didn't want to save themselves was bittersweet. And yea, it was uncomfortably obvious to me that Stuart's behavior reflected my own rescue fantasies: that I, a woman who was "good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people liked me", saw myself as bearing sole responsibility to become the mediating conjunction between dysfunction and function.

I read a couple of reviews this morning after watching the film for the tenth time yesterday and one of the critics said it was a movie that wanted to be quirky but ended up being odd instead. Maybe the critic's odd comment explains why it touched my funny bone and my heart. It was odd. It is odd. But odd as in reality is much funnier than it appears to be to a family in desperate need of redemption. Once you get over the fact that family always falls short of the ideal, Stuart Saves His Family can be a refreshing way to laugh at yourself rather than diagnosing yourself with an assortment of disorders, including narcissistic grandiosity. Empathic people keep trying to save their family because...well, because they love the people in their family and they're willing to work night and day to create safe and loving relationships.

The problem is that it often take years of failed rescue attempts before we accept the fact that ya can't fix other people if they don't wanna fix themselves. Fixing has to be reciprocal with each person taking responsibility for their participation in the familial dysfunction-------whether we instigated, accommodated, or foolishly mated. *wink*

I love this movie and highly recommend it to anyone working a healing program of some kind. It's tender and honest without making a mockery of 12-step groups which not only helped me survive familial craziness, they've also helped millions of people around the globe learn how to save themselves. Being able to laugh at yourself is a prerequisite for healing. A good laugh can strengthen your ability to cope with another tearful and miserable day on planet Reality.

As Roger Ebert, a critic rating this film with a Thumbs Up, wrote: "The movie is also unobtrusively wise about the real nature of the problems in Stuart's family, and doesn't offer easy solutions or a phony happy ending. I not only enjoyed Stuart Smalley, doggone it, I liked him, and that attitude of gratitude ain't just a platitude." ~Roger Ebert

Thank you, Roger. This film gets a two thumbs up rating from me, too.



  1. "The problem is that it often take years of failed rescue attempts before we accept the fact that ya can't fix other people if they don't wanna fix themselves."

    I still struggle with this one, but have gotten so much better.

  2. Dear anonymous,

    I hope to never become 'indifferent'...not even to the narcissists who've caused me pain because they were 'indifferent' to their impact on others.

    I hope to always remain a caring and loving women who can accept her losses and feel deep sadness about the choices people make. Choices that are never fulfilling and ultimately self-defeating if the goal is to Love-and-Be-loved by others.

    And, I hope to never blame, judge or mistreat myself because I care and care deeply.

    It can be all-too-easy to pathologize ourselves for trying TOO hard, for believing despite evidence to the contrary, that people wanted to bask in the safety of a secure and trustworthy relationship.

    so what if we make mistakes and so what if our assumptions are erroneous? What speaks loudly to me is the desire of the good and loving heart that encourages people to keep trying. We may have to walk away at some point if the relationship is damaging to our sense of self and worth but we can still honor ourselves for being willing to 'try'.

    And honor ourselves for loving and caring about people as a major human accomplishment.

    "Ya win some and ya lose some" they say but as far as I'm concerned, anyone who was able to love a prickly narcissist should recognize themselves as having done a nigh-to-impossible feat.

    I hope people can resist blaming themselves for trying...that's another challenge we face when we're untangling the web of narcissism.



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