To be Known, to be Understood
To be Known.
Loneliness is an increasing problem. Feeling’s of loneliness are not just experienced by being physically alone, but are a reflection as to whether we really feel understood as a unique individual. The consequence of a society that values individual responsibility and self reliance is often loneliness and separation from people. This encouragement to ‘stand on your own two feet’ can work against our innate need to be known and understood.
Being understood and being truly connected is vital to our sense of both who we really are, and our how we feel about ourself. When someone understands us, we are validated and valued. This partly explain why so many teenagers have such low self esteem. They are on a journey to be understood by their peers and their family. Rejection by peers, difficulties in communication with family can lead to temporary or more long term self-worth issues.
According to the ancient Greek Scholar Aristotle there are several types of Love;
- Eros is the erotic bond that needs no further explanation.
- Agape is the unconditional Love that we are entitled to as Humans.
- But perhaps the most neglected, and most needed is Phila, This is the friend bond, the Love that values our individuality as a person, the one through which we can be understood.
In my work I encounter many who share their pain over having low self-worth and self-esteem. They feel battered through everything they do. It’s a popular but misguide belief that such deep seated feelings can be negated solely through encouragement and motivation. The very base of self-esteem is our need to be understood and make ourself understandable. To Be Known.
The Price for not being Known
Allowing ourself to be known costs. it invloves being vulnerable, showing others just how fragile and frightened we really are. Sometime’s because of hurtful or traumatic events, we choose to not be Known. In the mistaken belief that by withholding part of ourselves, we can defend and control how we feel about the criticism and rejection from others. We hide or even deny our delicate uniqueness and individuality. The very part that is crying out to be acknowledged and valued by others.
This invisibility of our true self from others, leads to alienation and loneliness. We begin to create a “safe” false self that we present to other people. And eventually we being to believe that this portrayal is the real self, forgetting the true self at core. Forgetting our true self always leads to Anxiety as we face the world as a confused mismatch of defensive personalities. To not be Know, to portray ourselves as different from who we truly are means that we unable to experience our true self, as genuinely being Loved. And this is the very origin of our self-worth and esteem.
Very often long term relationships cover up our feelings of not being Known. It is often expected that the longer you are in a relationship the deeper your knowledge of each other. This is an illusion and runs the risk of people pretending they know each other. Separation and divorce often originates from couples not really knowing each other, no matter how long they have being together. They may once have connected, being intently curious about each other. But over time everyone evolves and changes, and the complex tools that defend us from criticism create a fog that prevent our closest and dearest from truly Knowing us. This often creates a self esteem problem and partners decide to move on. The same happens in close friendships.
The power of being known is truly amazing. To be believed in, understood and valued fuels us through the difficult times. Knowing someone is a devotional act. We have to remain curious about each other, holding what we discover with respect and privilege.