The very real dangers of being invisible

“Susie” wears the cloak of invisibility. She is a good girl who recognizes there are problems in her family and the best thing she can do for her parents is to be a good girl, not cause any more problems than already exist. She fades into the background. She doesn’t understand anything but being a good girl, not causing trouble. And too often, nobody notices her or her needs because “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” and she is bearing burdens she doesn’t understand in silence.

The state of invisibility can be related to how you are treated by your culture or society. It can result from depression or being treated like an object instead of a human being. It also can occur in childhood as a result of neglect. There may be no emotional connection with the child because parents are distracted by problems like how they are going to provide for the family or relationship issues or substance use issues that are ongoing. They may not even realize they are neglecting the children’s needs. For example, a father who always has the mother distracted with his drama and she can’t be everything to everyone because she is so tied up trying to keep up her balancing act. The child with a parent who has addiction or mental health issues may adopt a low profile – out of sight, out of mind – just to stay safe.

In her article, “The Loneliness and Shame of Feeling Invisible: How to Find Your Voice,” Dr. Margaret Rutherford speaks about why invisibility happens, what it all means, and what to do about it: You don’t matter and you aren’t important. You are seen for what you can do, not who you are. You are not as valuable or don’t have the same worth as others. You are not acceptable, not welcome.

Sometimes you may have become invisible through the victimization of a narcissist, of sexual abuse or other abuses. Dr. Rutherford explains that abusers look for people who take on much of the responsibility of relationships. Once the abuser has found someone who will handle all the responsibilities, (s)he manipulates the person to gain power. As this goes on the person – nobody wants to be a victim – becomes more and more invisible. A few crumbs of perceived kindness keep the person there, dependent on their keeper, because those crumbs have offered a bit of hope, false hope.

Perhaps a woman was told, “I want you to take care of everything so if something happens to me I know you will be OK.” So blind behind those rose-colored glasses, she was innocent – naive – enough to accept his words at face value. And learned too late what a mistake that was.

Deepak Chopra, M.D. writes in his article, “What to Do When You Feel Invisible,” that you must take responsibility for yourself and your actions, your part in why you feel the way you do. He urges taking an objective look at your situation, as you would if it was someone else. Make three lists: 1. What you REALLY want to change. 2. What you want to change but is less of a priority. 3. What you would like to see changed.

Set the lists aside for a cooling off period of a couple of days and when you go back to them see how you feel about those things. Talk to someone you trust who may speak from experience, will tell you what you need to hear instead of what you may want to hear. Create your action plan and set it into motion to guide you through the changes you are going to make to become visible again.

So, if you are wearing the invisibility cloak, what can you do?

— Look for what you can control.

— List ways you can overcome insecurity.

— Change any “irrational of self-destructive” coping skills to positive ones.

— Call it what it is: “Abuse is abuse. Narcissistic relationships are narcissism. Exploitation is exploitation.

— Make that action plan and implement it.


Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. Visit the web site at www.familyrecovery.org. Family Recovery Center is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.


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