Do you sometimes feel unseen and unheard? Do your conversations with others or with your partner sometimes feel like a one-way street? We become invisible to others regarding our feelings and needs and being heard and seen when our feelings and needs are invisible to ourselves.
I felt invisible for many years – to my parents both as a child and as an adult, to my husband, to my children, and often in social situations. Even after years of being in therapy with many different therapists, it wasn’t until I started to practice Inner Bonding that I understood what I was doing that was making me not only feel invisible but be invisible with others.
Many of my clients have this same experience.
My client Ellen was brought up to be invisible. She was taught to be very tuned into others’ feelings and needs, but to never have any of her own. Her family made it clear to her that her job was to give to them but to never expect anything in return. As a result, Ellen learned to be totally tuned out to her own feelings and needs. It was as if she, as a person, didn’t really exist, other than to be there for others.
When Ellen’s feelings and needs did surface, she would tell herself that they weren’t important, that she was strong and could handle not having her feelings cared for and or her needs recognized. She convinced herself that if she just cared enough about others, others would eventually care about her. It never happened.
The inner stress of never attending to her own feelings and needs and always feeling so invisible to others as a result, finally took a toll on Ellen’s health. Ellen is now dealing with cancer and finally has to attend to her own feelings and needs.
How do you make yourself invisible?What are some of the ways you create invisibility?
- Do you remain silent, not speaking up for yourself, when feeling discounted or unseen by others?
I did this for half of my life, not realizing that I was completely abandoning myself, and that others were treating me the way I was treating myself.
- Do you ignore your own feelings and needs in deference to others?
I would tell myself that others’ feelings and needs were more important than mine and that I could handle my pain but others’ couldn’t handle theirs.
- Do you go along with what others want, even if you really want something else?
For many years, because I was so out of touch with my feelings, I didn’t even know what I wanted, so it made it easy to just go along with others. But even if I did know what I wanted, I was too afraid of conflict to state what I wanted.
- Do you accept blame for things that you know are not really your responsibility?
As an only child with narcissistic parents, I was blamed for everything, so I got used to just accepting the blame as a form of control to avoid conflict. Thinking everything was my fault gave me a feeling of control – I could try to be perfect to avoid anger and disapproval.
- Do you put aside your own opinions and accept the opinions of others to be accepted?
I used to be terrified to express my own opinions for fear of ridicule, which is what I experienced very often in my family and marriage.
- Do you accept disrespectful behavior from others, finding ways to excuse the behavior?
I was a master at this. Being an empathic person, I always felt sorry for others and found many ways to excuse their unloving behavior.
- Do you pretend everything is okay when you are really feeling lonely or sad?
I learned very early to dissociate from the overwhelming loneliness I felt for most of my life. I’m so grateful for Inner Bonding that has led to an end of both aloneness and loneliness for me.
- Are you conflict avoidant, preferring peace at any cost rather than rock the boat?
In order to avoid conflict, which scared me before Inner Bonding, I had to give myself up, which, of course, made me invisible to others.
- Are you carrying too much of the load at home or at work, without complaint?
Those of us who were trained to be caretakers, tend to take on more and more of the work at home and at work in the hopes of getting approval, but if you are honest with yourself, all this leads to is feeling overwhelmed and unappreciated much of the time.
- Do you pretend to like a food, a movie, a topic of conversation, or sex, rather than run the risk of disapproval or rejection?
It’s such a relief to me now to no longer pretend to like anything that I don’t want or like!
- Do you allow yourself to be violated in any way – physically, emotionally, verbally, sexually – to avoid rejection? I did this for years, so of course I felt invisible. No more!
- Do you allow others’ anger or bullying to control you into doing what they want?
Being terrified of others’ anger due to my rageful mother, I used to do anything to avoid someone’s anger. Now, due to my Inner Bonding practice, I know how to take care of myself in the face of others’ anger, so I’m no longer afraid of others’ anger and I’m no longer compliant when others are angry or bullying toward me. And actually, I can’t think of the last time someone tried to bully me with anger or blame, because now they know it won’t work for them.
- Do you do everything yourself, never asking others for help?
I used to never ask for help because I was so afraid of people not caring about my needs. Now, I do ask for help because I’ve learned, through my Inner Bonding practice, not to take rejection or a lack of caring personally. Now I see it as about them, not about me.
- Do you caretake others’ feelings, telling yourself you are responsible for their feelings, while ignoring responsibility for your own feelings?
This is what caretakers so, so of course this is what I did. Now I take responsibility for my feelings, and I’m there to help others who want my help, but I no longer take responsibility for others’ feelings.
If this is you – if these are the things you do, how often do you end up feeling unappreciated, unseen, not valued? Can you see that this is a reflection of how you treat yourself?
If your own feelings and needs are invisible to yourself, of course they will end up being invisible to others. It is not realistic to constantly put yourself aside and then expect others to value and respect you. Anytime you tolerate uncaring or disrespectful behavior in others to avoid conflict, you are training others to see you as invisible, to not care about your feelings and needs.
Of course, the way to become visible is to first become visible to yourself, which means learning to see, value, and cherish yourself. However, it takes courage to start learning to love yourself.
If you have been allowing yourself to be invisible for a long time, it is a real challenge to start caring about yourself. You need to be willing to go through a difficult period of feeling others’ anger and resentment. After all, you trained them for years to not have to care about you or see you, and now you are changing the rules. They won’t like it, but they will eventually respect you for it. You will also discover in the process of caring about yourself who really cares about you and who has just been using you. Those people who really care about you will eventually applaud your self-care, while those who were just using you will go away or be constantly angry with you for changing.
It takes great courage to shift from invisibility to seeing, valuing, and loving yourself. It takes great courage to be willing to lose others rather than continue to lose yourself. Yet, like with Ellen in the earlier example, your very life may depend upon it. Hopefully, you will not wait until you are ill or feel alone and cast aside by others to start practicing Inner Bonding and learning to love yourself.
Becoming visible starts with learning to tune into, acknowledge, value, and take loving action for yourself regarding your own feelings and needs. It means moving into personal responsibility for your own feelings and needs rather than taking care of everyone else in the hopes they will eventually take care of you. If you are ever going to feel cared for and loved, it has to start with you caring about yourself and being loving to yourself!
It’s especially challenging with a partner to learn to love yourself when you have been invisible due to giving yourself up.
Many of us have the experience of feeling unseen and unheard by our partner.
For example, Kristy asks:
“My partner is a good sharer and easily talks about his feelings, his day, his dreams, his struggles, and so on. Unfortunately, he is not a good listener. When I talk, he seems to look away and it feels like he is not really hearing me. And after our conversation, he doesn’t remember things I’ve said accurately. I’m seeking connection but feel pretty invisible. Any thoughts on how to take care of me in this situation?”
There are two separate aspects to this that I will address.
The first thing Kristy needs to explore is how often she is invisible to herself. How often does she hear and attend to her own feelings? How often does she connect with her guidance and take loving action for herself? If she isn’t doing these things, then the energy she is projecting out might be being reflected back to her in her relationship.
When her partner looks away and appears not to hear her, does she say anything? Does she open to learning about why he isn’t interested in what she is saying? From her questions above, it sounds like in the conversation with him, she is not attending to herself, and so she might be making herself invisible.
The other issue concerns possible reasons why he isn’t listening:
- He could be narcissistic and only interested in himself. If this is the case, the only way this can change is if Kristy is much more proactive in stating what is happening in the moment. However, there is always the possibility that he won’t change.
- He could be feeling pulled on by her to connect with her. There is nothing wrong with wanting connection with her partner, but if Kristy isn’t connected with herself, she may be making him responsible for filling her up and he may be resistant to this.
- The third reason is what I stated earlier – he may be reflecting her own invisibility to herself. Self-abandonment leads to feeling invisible, both within oneself and within a relationship.
For Kristy, taking care of herself in this situation means, first of all, learning to stay present with her own feelings and with her guidance, and taking loving actions on her own behalf so that her inner child feels seen and heard by her. This includes speaking up with her partner with an intention to learn when she experiences him not listening to her.
Taking care of herself may result in her partner being more attentive.
If she concludes that he is self-centered and just not interested in listening to her, then she might want to seek help for their relationship. If he is unavailable to working on the relationship with her, and if feeling invisible to her feels unacceptable, then she may need to reckon with whether he is the right partner for her – not an easy decision.
Since she cannot make him change, she would either decide that she can fully accept him exactly as he is, or she would decide to move on.
Sometimes, a partner accepts listening without being listened to and finds other ways of connecting. Sometimes a partner finds friends who listen, which can somewhat make up for not being listened to in the relationship. Sometimes, learning to listen to yourself and your guidance can be so fulfilling that it becomes okay to not be listened to.
There is no right or wrong option – it just depends on you and on what you want.
Regardless of Kristy’s decision and whether or not her partner changes, learning to love herself and not being invisible to herself will make her feel important, visible, and loved.
Have you ever felt invisible at social events? For those of us who are introverts, it might be easy to feel invisible in the face of others who are extroverts. But again, feeling invisible starts within, with valuing yourself so that you are not fearful of others judgment or rejection. You will find that the more you value yourself, the more you will feel at ease in social situations. Not being invisible to yourself goes a long way in healing social anxiety.
I encourage all of you to learn and practice Inner Bonding. It’s such a powerful process in learning to love and cherish yourself, which enables you to share your love with others, rather than approaching relationships with a fear of being hurt.
As I’ve shared in previous podcasts, when I started to practice Inner Bonding, I made two decisions that changed my life: I decided I was willing to be hurt, and that I was willing to lose others rather than lose myself. These decisions were essential for me to learn to love myself. I encourage you to be realistic and see that you’ve often been hurt, and you’ve dealt with it – you didn’t go crazy or die from being hurt. And to see that losing yourself might not be worth it, no matter who else you lose.
Loving yourself leads to being visible, and to an incredible sense of freedom!
We offer many ways to learn Inner Bonding:
You can learn much about healing all your relationships with my 30-Day online video relationship course:Wildly, Deeply, Joyously in Love.
You can take my 30-Day course, “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships.”
You can learn from our very in-depth online program, SelfQuest, at https://selfquest.com.
For an in-depth and inexpensive way of learning Inner Bonding, see my book: “The Inner Bonding Workbook: Six Steps to Healing Yourself and Connecting With Your Divine Guidance.”
Also helpful is my book, Diet for Divine Connection: Beyond Junk Foods and Junk Thoughts to At-Will Spiritual Connection
And, of course, we have much to offer you at our website at https:www.innerbonding.com.
I’m sending you my love and my blessings.