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The Need to Be Seen (The Way We Want to Be Seen)

As human beings, we have an ingrained need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Whether it is through family, hobbies, school, work, or organized religion, we continuously seek recognition and praise in various forms. In Western society, plenty of value is placed on the extroverted individual that takes care of themself and can pull themself up by their bootstraps. While in Eastern society, the value is often placed much more on the collective functioning of groups, and this requires individuals to be more introverted.

In my Life Span Development course, I saw an example of preschoolers working out discipline together in the classroom instead of learning to rely on teacher intervention. That was part of a documentary that took place in Japan. In the Western version, there was much more teacher involvement, but the issues did get resolved as quickly. In both cases, these children are getting necessary recognition, but it was quite fascinating how much more effective it seemed to be when peers naturally handle issues together versus the expectation of an omnipotent adult to swoop in and tell them what is best.

In her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, the author discusses the issue of introversion and extroversion in-depth and provides a detailed comparison between Eastern and Western cultures and the pros and cons of both. In Western society, extroverts are more respected, but introverts are the ones that tend to contribute more to the arts and sciences in ways that help humanity make notable advancements. There is value in both styles of living and we are all on the spectrum when it comes to these two identities.

Recently, the Washington Post released an article discussing that 40% of the population struggles with loneliness and its effects of it on our mental and physical health. Can therapy help this stifling need to be connected? Absolutely. One of the hardest lessons we learn as children is that even being in a room full of people does not necessarily counteract loneliness. We need to be seen (the way we want to be seen.) We need space held for us in a way that tells us: you are here, you are real and you matter, for better and for worse.

In Nichole Sachs's book on #journalspeak, she uses the example from the first Avatar movie, when Kiri says to Sully, “I see you.” At that moment, she sees his struggle and she understands why he hurt her. She forgives him through an understanding of the interconnectedness of all beings, which gave her the ability to feel empathy for this villain who had jeopardized the existence of her community and her entire world. She knew he was sorry and felt the gravity of what he had done, making a world of difference.

We can all relate to that feeling of betrayal to some degree, and it often leaves a mark on our will to continue making an effort to connect with new people in the hopes of improving our lives. Keeping ourselves closed off from others is a defense mechanism to protect the self, but as Ms. Sachs might say, keeping ourselves safe and giving up on activities because of chronic issues like mental and physical pain, is safe in the unsafest way.

Loneliness is natural and starting the journey of talk therapy is a great way to begin to be seen. From there, individuals are able to form a greater idea of their extroverted or introverted nature, providing deeper insight into their unique style of need for connection versus a need for connection that has been imposed on them by mainstream values. Besides, being able to solely provide for oneself has never been real, but it does provide a competitive mindset that allows a few individuals to make a lot of money off of several unexpecting targets, which perpetuates the cycle of inequality and the ongoing struggle to be seen and valued.

“I See You” sung by Leona Lewis

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