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To be truly loved is to be known.
I love the scene from Avatar (the one with the blue creatures) where Neytiri finds Jake near death in his vulnerable, human form. She puts his oxygen mask on him and when he regains consciousness they look deeply at each other and acknowledge, “I see you.”
I remember thinking when I first saw this, “That’s the deepest expression of love; to truly, deeply see someone and to be seen.”
In all honesty, I’m not much of a romantic. In my marriage, the times I’ve felt the most loved are the times I’ve been known. A couple of months ago I was looking for music to listen to while I did some housework. I ran across an old CD my husband made years ago that said “Suze”. I didn’t remember what music he’d put on it, so I thought it would be fun to listen to it while I cleaned. As song after song played I felt known. If you had asked me for a list of favorite songs, I would not have even thought of many of the songs on the cd, yet each song touched some part of me; different parts, different memories. It was a play list of songs made by someone who’d known me a long time, who knew many different sides of me, different sides that exist in me now, and sides of me from the past. This is someone who knows me very well, right now in this present moment.
He sees me.
It is excruciatingly painful to lose someone who has known you. You don’t just lose them, you lose the way they knew you; the way you existed with them. We often don’t acknowledge and honor this latter loss when we grieve.
When I was a new therapist, several of my clients were people in their eighties and nineties. These men and women often spent our hour together telling me old stories from their lives. As a new therapist, I was vigilant about finding the perfect therapeutic moment and intervention. “How else,” I wondered, “could I justify our hour together?”
This story-telling was so prevalent that it finally occurred to me that it was serving a purpose. If you spend enough time with a person you will come to a point where when they use someone’s name that you’ve never met, you know, without being told, that that’s their cousin or their childhood friend or their neighbor. I think it’s at this point that someone really begins to feel known. These people had already lost most, if not all, of the people who had known them from childhood, or even early adulthood. We need to be seen, to be known.
Several years ago I wrote about the healing power of “calling forth” the healed part of a person. The focus was on the seeing. As my focus shifts to “being seen” I begin to acknowledge the places I allow myself to be seen and the places I keep myself from being seen. There are places we keep up a facade or a guard and where we don’t allow ourselves to be truly, fully seen.
Sometimes this is what we have to do to keep ourselves safe and that is a wise choice. But, there are other places we keep those guards up to our detriment. We can keep ourselves from being loved and being known in ways and from people that could be deeply healing.
So I start taking inventory of the places I allow myself to be seen and places I don’t. In this way, I can make informed choices rather than staying stuck in unconscious, habitual patterns.
Spend time during this month of hearts and cupids to take inventory. Who are the people who see you? Acknowledge and honor these relationships. They are real treasures. They keep us grounded and can be the ports in our storms.