I believe the most meaningful thing we could ever say to someone is simply this: “I see you.”
When I try to identify the deepest human impulse, I come upon the same answer everywhere I look: we all just want to be seen.
This is love, as far as I can tell. Love implies truly seeing another person and, in turn, having ourselves be seen by another in all of our qualities, our imperfections, our strengths, our sorrows, our ways—all of the things that makes us who we are.
What does it mean to be seen, to be loved? Being acknowledged in the depths of our being. Having the intimate aspects of ourselves be recognized and appreciated. I can’t think of anything more fulfilling than this.
That is why getting out of a relationship can be so painful. It feels like our inner self has been rejected, or maybe it feels like we have not been seen at all. This is the opposite feeling of being seen—the suffering that dwells beneath the joy of being in love.
We’ve all been here, I’d imagine. The breakup. The confusion of it. The unbearable emptiness that we feel. We think to ourselves: “Why are they doing this to me? I thought they knew me…I thought they saw me. What happened to our love?”
It is natural to feel all of these things, but I am starting to learn not to take it personally. People are complicated, and we are all looking for different things in life and love. Being rejected by someone is not an assault on the intimate parts of who we are. It is just the unveiling of deep individual differences between us. It’s natural. If someone rejects our love, then why would we want to give it to them?
When the person we love doesn’t want to see us or love us, it could just be a sign that this relationship wasn’t sustainable to begin with, and they were just the first one to notice.
Instead of obsessing over what we need to change about ourselves or the other person, maybe we should just try to truly see ourselves and acknowledge what we need in our lives. I think before we can really be seen by another, we first must be seen by ourselves.
Let’s say that we have been broken up with. We feel hurt and unseen. We can’t understand how the other person doesn’t feel what we feel. So, how do we deal with this?
I hope it doesn’t sound too vague or cliche, but I think we can only deal with this by going within ourselves and inquiring into our own nature. We must heal, and this cannot happen if we get caught up in mental loopholes of obsession and attachment.
What we really need is to remember how to find happiness in ourselves, in the field of our own consciousness, without needing something outside to fulfill us. This is what it means to seek solitude, in the deepest sense. This is what being an individual is truly about.
I journal. That is how I work this stuff out in myself. The beautiful thing about journaling is that it is not contrived in any way. It is just the flow of our truest thoughts and feelings, to be read and felt by us alone. There is strength in this. There is honesty in this. I merely sit, search my feelings, and write down what comes up for me. I would recommend this as a simple activity to deal with the pain of not being seen.
So, let’s sum it up:
1. We all want to be seen. This is not only natural, but may very well be the most natural feeling we could have. This is love.
2. It hurts when we feel unseen—or seen and rejected.
3. We contend with this by learning to see ourselves—freeing us from the need to be seen and acknowledged by someone else, just long enough to heal. Then we can get back on the horse and express the natural tendency to be in love with another.
4. Stream-of-consciousness journaling, among other things, is a valuable tool in getting in touch with ourselves.
We all want to be seen. Let’s learn how to navigate the ebb and flow of feelings that come along with this fundamental desire.
Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Unsplash/Allef Vinicius
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Lindsey Block