“Your conscience is the measure of the honesty of your selfishness. Listen to it carefully.”
The other day I received a phone call from an old friend who was also a friend of my family. In our conversation she said something, which stayed with me and gave me pause. It caused me to think and work with the information she gave me in an enlightening kind of way. She told me a story which involves my father. The short story is that she was in town, lives out of town, and asked if she could come over to visit. He answered, yes, if she would be invisible.
I will elaborate on this story shortly. In the mean time, have you ever felt invisible, or were asked openly or tacitly to be invisible? For the many of us who have experienced this, it is not fun. It doesn’t feel good, nor does it honor us. One good thing about old friends is that they hold many shared memories, some of which we remember, some we don’t consciously, and some their perspective sheds light for us. Our friends are a true blessing. They can also hold memories of events we weren’t privy to, but ultimately are about us. This is another blessing. What does it meant to be or to feel invisible, and what can we do about it?
Back to the story; in this story we were already adults and my friend was in town to visit her mother. Her experience with her family has always been difficult and painful. This visit was a holiday time. We became friends around the age of 11 or 12 years of age, and have continued our friendship on and off since then. During those preteen and teen years, she would often come over to our house and she became a friend of the whole family. Each person had their own individual relationship with her. For awhile she was close to my father. He could be very helpful to her at times in his caring and yet self involved way. During this particular visit she asked if she could come over, and it was during the holidays. My father usually reserved holidays for family time, and it just happened that he had a patient staying with the family at this time. This patient involves another family story at another time. I tell you this to add context to the story. So when my friend asked to come over he told her she could but she would have to be invisible.
So she came over. I wasn’t there at the time, and she sat next to my younger sister and shared the sofa with her as my father was nurturing his patient who was living with us. My friend turned to my sister who was just sitting there and asked her how it felt to be invisible. They both shared a chuckle. On another note, it was not funny.
This friend grew up being and feeling invisible to and with her family, as she wasn’t really seen by them and longed to be seen. In my family we would be seen sometimes, usually at some events and always during some time of crisis, but otherwise most everything revolved around our father. Hearing her tell me this story helped me to see things more clearly and to understand myself on a deeper level. When she was telling this story I too felt a chuckle inside, but for a different reason. She was told to be invisible in this instance, and we and many others were tacitly asked to be invisible. In a way, this was a gift because it was clear and out in the open. When it is silent and unsaid, as with us, we can grow up wondering about why we act in certain ways, draw certain types of people to us, and feel a certain way about ourselves. When we were growing up we didn’t really understand with words what was being asked of us. Taking it out of its cover is a very helpful experience and can give us a real “aha” experience.
Small Changes that Promote Big Results:
A great exercise is this: write down some questions and answer them in a few sentences. Don’t belabor this exercise.
Do you feel invisible? How does this affect you in your life? What was asked of you growing up? Did you live in a household where both or one of your parents was all about themselves?
Next week I will elaborate on narcissism a bit more, with stories that show where and how it can begin.
A book I recommend is, “Narcissism, Denial of the True Self”, by Alexander Louwen.