Diana Hardy, MS
Have you ever been seen (not just looked at)?
All of us have been looked at but have we all been seen? To look at something only involves directing one’s eyes toward an object. To see means to grasp something of the inner meaning of a reality. Seeing engages an interior awareness of the value, worth and sacredness of who or what is in front of me.
Have you ever been talking to someone at a party who is so absorbed in himself that you knew that if you suddenly vanished into thin air, he would just keep on talking?
On the other hand, have you ever been with someone who seems to see right through you; who actively seeks to understand you without manipulation or blame; who sees your innate goodness, who tries to figure out what makes you tick, who knows what is important to you and who gains an even deeper grasp on how important you are?
As human beings we have a need to be seen. A little child – only a few months old – can tell when her mother is paying attention to her. There is a type of emotional communication that happens between mother and child that lets the child know that her mother is emotionally attuned to what is going on in her little heart and mind. The presence of this loving gaze and attunement is key to development and growth. When an infant is upset, the mother’s calming voice and gentle cuddling will sooth the child. A good mother will also know how to amplify positive emotions by cooing or smiling at the child. From this consistent emotional attunement the little child learns that there is someone who loves her and someone who has her back. This mother-child relationship will become a safe haven in times of trouble and a secure base from which to explore the world.
We know now that this mother-child relationship will have much to do with adults’ overall sense of who they are and how effective they become at establishing and maintaining satisfying relationships.
But what happens when a mother or primary caregiver is suffering from mental of physical illness, under tremendous stress from trauma, divorce or domestic violence or overwhelmed by financial burdens? What happens when a child does not feel seen or heard or understood? Often in these cases, the bond between parent and child will be deeply affected. Many children in these situations will find ways to cope, which are adaptive in the moment but later on in life may cause interpersonal patterns that are based on fear or resentment rather than freedom.
All is not lost though; one path to healing is through a therapeutic relationship that allows a safe place to examine what maladaptive patterns may be present in both one’s way of thinking and acting. New experiences can expose us to new ways of seeing ourselves and relating to others. Try something new this year, go on a trip to your own interior world and share that journey with someone else who can see you.
If you feel you have not been seen and need help on your journey or just want someone to talk to, the skilled therapists at Life Skills Resource Group are here to help. Call for a FREE phone consultation: (407)355-7378.