Many ancient cultures believed that to know a thing’s true name was to wield great power over that thing. For example, in Rick Riordan’s The Red Pyramid, siblings Sadie and Carter must learn the secret name of the ominous Set, in order to defeat the tyrant and save the world from destruction. While the book is only a story, the theme resonates with long held beliefs throughout human history.
So often I hear from teenagers: “I don’t feel seen.” That sentiment is commonly expressed to describe what’s really going on in their relationship with their caregiver. It’s often accompanied by others like it: “You [mom, dad] won’t understand.” “No one’s gonna get it.”
The world is a very lonely place when it seems like no one really knows who we are. If no one really understands us, then where in the world do we truly feel accepted? Where, and how do we know, we belong?
Healthy relationships harbor a degree of attunement, the ability to focus on another individual’s internal state of being. Through attunement, our fundamental need to feel seen and understood can be fulfilled. Feeling a sense of connectedness to the world and those around us promotes resilience and self-regulation.
It is a scary thing to drop all defenses and stand before another person, to hand them the power to stare straight down to your authentic self, and wait, eagerly, terrifyingly, to see what they will do with that information. Will they get it? Will they miss it? Will they look right through you and misunderstand? Will you be rejected? Will they even take the time to notice? And if they do not, how can we know if we are really loved?
We humans, and adolescents, especially, are wonderfully adept at creating obstacles between ourselves and others, to maintain a safe distance. Sometimes this takes on the face of long work hours, sarcasm, or self-deprecation. Sometimes it comes in the form of retreat, avoidance, or perfectionism. Still others employ louder tactics such as yelling, criticizing, fighting. I’ve heard children tell me that they fear their parents will not love them if they mess up, even though they know this to be untrue. Fear is not always rational. But even when fear appears irrationally, it can still make sense to feel that way.
Therapy is a frightening prospect for many; the idea of facing down your demons can be terrifying. Therapy is one way to name the fears that are holding you back from embracing the authentic life you so deserve. My job as a therapist is not to give you the answers for how to fix the thing troubling you. That power already resides within you. My role is to help you access that power. Courage requires a willingness to be vulnerable. When you acknowledge your fear, you give yourself an opportunity to find the courage within. Contact me to schedule a session or for a FREE 15 minute phone consultation. I’ll share tips on how to increase attunement with your loved one in another post soon to follow.