Skip to main content

To Be Seen

I spent much of my childhood invisible. It was easier that way, as the alternative was to be blamed and punished for imagined faults and shortcomings projected on to me by my narcissistic parents. As an invisible person, I created other universes in my imagination which were not quite as sad and lonely as the one I was born into. To this day, my inner life is vivid, and I often prefer spending time "inside" to the more mundane realm of daily tasks and activities.

Perhaps it is my inclination to disappear, to blend in, when the external stimuli overwhelms me. Perhaps I still hold on to the unconscious belief that I don't deserve to take up more space than I do in the hearts and minds of others. Perhaps I am simply so used to living this way that I don't see how to do it differently. But I long to be seen.

I long to be seen in a way that tells me I am loved. I long to be seen in a way that tells me I am understood. I long to be seen in a way that tells me that it is not what I can do, but the essence of who I am, that gives me value. When I look in to the eyes of others, I want this to be the message. When I look in the mirror, I want this to be echoed back to me. I long to see this message reflected in every person and interaction. And yet, I struggle to remember the last real eye contact I made, even my own.

I suspect I am not the only one who longs to be seen. Children of narcissistic parents often feel they don't have a reflection, as all the mirrors in their homes were taken. Children of narcissistic parents, determined not to be like them worry that asking to be seen at all equates with demanding all the attention. We were told that we were the ones who were selfish if we had needs of any kind. It's hard for us to understand what a normal amount of attention looks like, because we were only exposed to the extremes. This is why it's easier for us to pretend that we don't have needs. This is why too often we fall back on our good deeds and activities to prove we have some value.

For me, the most loving gift I could receive from anyone, including myself, is to be seen. More than anything else, it is my greatest need.


Popular posts from this blog

No, There Are Not Two Sides

I was in a meeting where a mediator was trying her best to stay impartial to a situation where a large volume of well-documented verbal and emotional abuse had occurred. She was a trained professional, but professionally speaking, she didn't want to be in a position to take sides on the issue. She offered the worn-out platitude, "Well, there are two sides to every story..." I let it slide the first time she said it, but when she said it again, I stopped her.

"Actually, when it comes to abuse, there are not two sides. There is abuse, and there is the recipient of abuse. The recipient of abuse is not at fault for the actions of the abuser."

Her jaw dropped a moment, then she nodded slowly. She knew I was right, and in this moment, a light went on. The situation she was mediating was not about two people having a disagreement. It was about a serial abuser attacking someone else who had done nothing to provoke the attack. She couldn't stay impartial. It was h…

Codependent or Empath?

There are a number of resources and articles for survivors of narcissistic abuse, and taken in all together, are extremely helpful in better understanding the abuser and our own role in the abuse. There is a certain type of person narcissists, psychopaths, and Cluster B abusers tend to seek out. Terms like "codependent" and "empath" are tossed around, sometimes interchangeably, but they are not the same.

A codependent's core issue (like the narcissist) is low self-esteem. They attach themselves to an alpha personality for their identity, and are constantly looking outside of themselves for validation and definition. They are helpers and fixers. Many people in the caring professions, such as teachers and nurses, tend to be codependent. They crave external praise and will go to great lengths to enable others in order to be liked. A codependent's sense of happiness and self-worth can be entirely dependent on the moods, actions, and feelings of the alpha. Code…

Ten Tools for Trauma Survivors

A couple years ago, I hit a serious wall.  I was emotionally and physically exhausted, but didn't understand why. Sure, I was a mom, wife, graduate student, and ran a business, but this exhaustion went much deeper than my chronic state of busyness and hypervigilance. Sure, I knew I had a rough childhood and had gone no contact with my parents ten years prior. I got on with my life. I made many positive and deliberate changes so I didn't repeat their patterns, but I hadn't fully unpacked just how vast that black hole of childhood trauma was. For me, awakening to the impact of my childhood trauma has happened over many years, with thousands of tiny steps toward recovery. But one day, the truth of it hit me so hard, I had to drop everything to process it. I had no choice because my body and brain simply gave out. I had to grow or succumb. I chose to grow.

I threw myself headlong into the task of really looking at my issues. You could say I was hypervigilant about trauma reco…