This week, I am wondering how much invisibility has affected your life. I guess the reason for asking is that the week has offered me a couple of unexpected wake-up calls that made me think just how big a part invisibility plays in the mosaic of abuse.
When you stop to think about it, someone who has been neglected – whether emotionally or physically or both – learns to feel invisible. How can that not have a big impact on the way that that person shows up in the world?
Today, I want to look at how you undo those feelings of invisibility.
My squirm zone
Last Sunday, I did something relatively out of character – a Valentine’s Day live training on how to show up differently in relationships.
A couple of days ahead of the training, I was sitting down to organise my thoughts when I suddenly realised that I wasn’t doing the world’s greatest job of organising my thoughts for one simple reason: I was feeling way out of my comfort zone.
Writing is my comfort zone. Speaking unscripted, without the prompting of an interviewer, is more like my squirm zone.
Once I get my hands on the keyboard, so my narrative went, I know that my thoughts will organise themselves and the words will flow…
Yet that that was not always the way.
Once upon a time, I had a terror of writing my thoughts down. I did not believe that I could get them to convey my meaning effectively, it felt like I was trying to mold some very unyielding material. But for all that, it still felt better than speaking.
At worst, speaking felt like standing in front of a firing line. That was how unsafe it felt – for a good reason…
In an abusive home, you are never far from the firing line
When you grow up in an abusive family, you are never more than a few steps away from a firing line.
I came from a family where the firing squad were constantly ready for action.
In that world, my words had no power whatsoever. I learned, at a very young age, that nothing I could say – or do – would get me heard and validated.
Other members of the family, on the other hand, used words far more effectively to garner attention and to attack – and thereby maintain their hold on a modicum of power. I didn’t even know where to start.
One thing that nobody could – or ever did – accuse me of was being remotely street-smart.
Learning to voice my thoughts and feelings, in writing, did not come easily to me.
Yet, over time, it became second nature and I forgot the emotional distance I had travelled.
The thought of speaking, on the other hand, was still colored by those old experiences and judgements…
When you grow up invisible, you lose your voice and the words to convey – even to grasp – your own feelings.
Abuse teaches you to silence yourself.
Healing is about tuning in to yourself
More and more, as I work with survivors on their healing, I realise that healing simply asks you to tune in to yourself.
One of the questions that I get asked a LOT is
“How do I stop loving a Narcissist?”
It is one of those, “Please, give me a (quick) fix” questions that seeks an action-based answer.
There are no magic recipes or magic answers.
The only effective magic is the magic of tuning in to yourself.
An answer that stated categorically
- Read this
- Recite this mantra every day at 7.03 am for the next 27 days.
- Walk round your bedroom three times, anti-clockwise, first thing in the morning and last thing at night and
- Put Himalayan pink salt in your bath on Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s for the next 3 weeks
- Light a scented candle at dawn on day 28 and
In 28 days, 14 hours and 2i minutes you will be free….
Would go down a treat.
All that you would need to do is undertake a few – oddish but relatively doable – activities and the magic would work.
Except that that is phony magic. That is not how healing works – least of all healing from invisibility.
The true magic lies in tuning in to yourself.
On the plus side, tuning in to yourself is, actually, a lot less demanding than attempting to “heal” – that is, radically make-over – your poor, wounded psyche.
You just have to listen
You simply have to listen to yourself – for a change.
Instead of jumping in with a judgement…
When I realised that I was falling back into my old “I-can’t-express-myself-in-words” routine, I didn’t even think about opting for any of my best or coolest therapeutic techniques. Instead, I just thought,
“Wow! Isn’t that interesting? That, too, is worth sharing.”
Whatever you become aware of is worthy of attention.
If it has been an inconvenience to you, there is a learning in it that will benefit you and doubtless serve others also.
When you listen to yourself, you free yourself
When you listen to yourself, you start to free yourself. That, in turn, will benefit others, also.
If you were brought up invisible, or have lived in an invisible relationship, you desperately need to be seen and heard.
Unfortunately, no amount of trying to earn love will ever buy you the hearing and the visibility that you need.
However, it is something that you can do for yourself.
You just need to tune in to yourself.
Having been trained to invisibility, you don’t see that you can stand in your own power, that is a belief that you need to tune in to before you can dispense with it.
You can always overcome invisibility
Frieda, the ten year old daughter of a divorcing client of mine was having a tough time with her father’s psychological bullying. Dad was using shared custody requirements to work the invisibility angle with his only child.
I had a brief chat with Frieda and actually did work through one cool technique with her.
Frieda enjoyed the experience. I tuned in to her, she tuned in to herself. As far as I could tell, it all seemed to work well enough.
The following week, Frieda wanted to update me. She had laid down an effective boundary with her dad. That felt good to her. Plus, without even thinking about it, she had resolved a bullying situation that had been upsetting her at her junior school.
Frieda is one smart cookie.
Frieda has learned a fundamental lesson. She has learned that will no longer tolerate being invisible to herself, first and foremost.
She had made that mental shift because she had been able to tune in to who she was – as opposed to who or what she was not. In the eyes of the abusive people around her.
Tune in to yourself
If invisibility has ever been a problem for you, then you need to start to tune in to yourself in a way that has not been happening until now.
That means listening to
- Validate and
- Nurture…. YOURSELF
If you are looking for a practical, effective and even affordable way to do so that actually will work – as opposed to the three times anti-clockwise round the bedroom method etc. – then I would urge you to work with my Breaking Old Patterns Toolkit.
Break the old pattern of listening to berate yourself
You have to give up the old, sneaky pattern – that you may not even be fully aware of, of listening to berate yourself.
I found out on Sunday, that one former, ultra-low visibility, world-class People-Pleaser with 50+ years’ experience – has used it not just to transform the way she goes about looking for a potential partner but also to stand in her own power in her place of work and with her her difficult and demanding mother. By tuning in to herself and fine tuning the way that she relates to her mother, she has finally managed to establish a relationship of equality.
If invisibility has been a problem for you, tune in to your authentic self and enjoy seeing yourself take centre stage in your own life. It’s your stage, after all. That is precisely where you should be – with the co-stars of your choice.
Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.
The 5 Simple Steps to Healing from Narcissistic Abuse
Over the next 5 days, I'll send you some lessons and tips that I've found have really helped women to heal from narcissistic abuse. Starting with the basics.