Managing The Heartbreak of Not Being Seen or HeardBy Dr. Margaret Paul
May 02, 2016
Learn to manage the shattering heartbreak of when someone doesn't grok you - doesn't see you, hear you or understand you.
Take a few minutes right now and think back to your childhood. Do you remember a time when you felt deeply unseen, unheard, misunderstood?
How did you feel at that time? You likely felt crushed, shattered, heartbroken, lonely and helpless over your parent, caregiver, teacher, sibling or friend. But these are very big feelings – way too big for a child. What did you do? Did you shut down and numb your feelings in some way, or did you cry, get angry, seek revenge or go into resistance?
Do you remember a different time, when you felt deeply seen, heard and understood? Did you ever feel this, or do you have no memory of ever being fully received? Was there no one you could turn to for help, comfort and understanding?
Too many children grow up never being fully received – never feeling fully seen, valued, heard and understood – never feeling grokked. ('Grok' is a term coined by Robert Heinlein in his wonderful book "Stranger In a Strange Land." We feel 'grokked' when we are deeply seen, heard and understood.)
When we didn't feel grokked, we needed to protect ourselves from feeling the shattering pain of this, so we developed our many protections to avoid our feelings and attempt to have control over others seeing and hearing us. But the conundrum of this is that we will never be grokked when we are protecting ourselves with our various addictive controlling behaviors.
The challenge for all of us as adults is to learn to manage the intense heartbreak of not being seen or heard. Learning to manage the shattering feeling of heartbreak in our body can be very hard – especially if we experienced trauma from abuse.
Learning to Manage Heartbreak and Helplessness over Others
The very first skill you need to develop is learning to be kind to yourself and hopefully learn to feel compassion for yourself. Kindness and compassion for yourself lets your inner child know that YOU are seeing, hearing and understanding yourself – that you grok yourself. When you judge yourself for your painful feelings, you are letting your inner child know that you are not seeing and valuing yourself. This rejection of yourself causes even more pain.
Even if you can't yet tolerate the feelings of heartbreak, loneliness and helplessness from not being seen and valued, and even if you can't yet feel self-compassion, practice being very kind to all your feelings – even if you feel numb.
Compassion is not a feeling we generate in our own being. It's a feeling we open to and invite in. It is a gift of Spirit, and when you open to learning about loving yourself with your higher self, you can consciously invite compassion into your heart.
If you know that you were traumatized and perhaps suffer from PTSD, it's vitally important to receive trauma therapy. You can learn the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and the Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) online, and you can work with a facilitator with Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Somatic Experiencing (SE), or other very helpful and healing trauma therapies. The important thing is to heal your body enough so that you can tolerate feeling the heartbreak of not being grokked, and learn to manage it rather than avoid it.
Without being able to feel your feelings, you won’t be able to see and hear yourself. You will continue to reject and abandon yourself as you were rejected and abandoned.
Deep healing comes when you learn to grok yourself – to see, hear and deeply value who you are and all that you feel. Often, this means that you first need to feel deeply seen and valued by another, which is what occurs in good therapy or facilitation.
Start learning how to see yourself, hear yourself and love yourself, with Dr. Margaret's 30-Day at-home course, Love Yourself.
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The paradox of our wounded self is that it wants to feel safe so it tries in so many ways to control that which it cannot control, which leads to feeling anxious and unsafe. Surrendering to what is and opening to spiritual guidance creates the peace that will never come from trying to control.
By Dr. Margaret Paul