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Not long ago, I observed a father playing with his young baby in our waiting room. The father and mother had been unable to secure a sitter and chose to bring the baby to their Discernment Therapy appointment. “Peekaboo! I see you!” Most of us are familiar with this game. But did you know that the game of Peekaboo is believed to have originated long ago, in the year 1590? The game, which is played universally, involves the Peekaboo-er hiding his/her face or entire self and suddenly bursting into view then re-hiding themselves again. The scenario repeatedly cycles, hide-reveal, hide-reveal, etc. Young children age 6-months to 1-year of age tend to be delighted by the game’s disappear and reappear action. Indeed, the game teaches children about object permanence. Developmental psychologists define object permanence as the understanding that objects, events, and people continue to exist, even when they can not be heard, seen, or touched. Please focus on this last sentence: People continue to exist, even when they are not heard, seen, or touched. Can you imagine such an existence? However, this is what is often expressed to me by clients who describe themselves as feeling invisible.
Years ago, when we lived in New York City, I made a friend. She was and still is one of the most learned, accomplished, and creative people I have the pleasure of knowing. I always feel so privileged and excited when I get to spend time with her and her husband. During one early conversation, she stated that I made her feel visible. Her statement literally floored me. I had to process that for some time. It never occurred to me that someone with her talent, intellect, and personality might at times feel obscure. Since then, I have had others say the same to me. As a counselor, I understand how specific personalities of all ages may, at times, find general comfort in anonymity, while others, overall, tend to draw energy and appreciation from attention. However, the hard truth is that all people want to be seen, valued, heard, and loved by people they deem as significant. This need and want can occur at home, church, work, or community.
Paradoxically, during this time of COVID and mask requirements, there are individuals of all ages who have enjoyed the ability to navigate through crowds obscurely when they otherwise may have felt too uncomfortable. They get to observe and participate in groups without feeling too pressured or set-upon by attention and expectations. Masks have allowed them to connect with a greater number of people, with less internalized pressure of providing appropriate or expected facial expressions and verbal exchanges. Ironic, isn’t it?
Consider that most conversations surrounding mask requirements focus solely on restrictions and control, which certainly exist. But there are also unexpected freedoms afforded by mask-wearing. I know individuals who have voiced an appreciation of these unexpected freedoms and social interactions. I worry they may digress once masks are no longer required. I fear they may again feel they are invisible or retreat to being corner observers rather than participators. I worry that they may again feel obscure, unappreciated, and unheard. My point is that freedoms, invitations, introductions, and inclusiveness can come in unexpected formats. One of my dearest family members shared with me her social appreciation of the recent mask requirements, even as she disagrees with the mandates politically. She has felt able to extend her Peek-a-boo visibility in public more often.
Peekaboo, God sees you. I want to assure you that no one is invisible. Even in times you may feel that you are unnoticed, underappreciated, undervalued, unheard, or unloved, you are quite the opposite. You are quite noticed, heard, appreciated, valued, and loved by the one most important person to have ever walked this earth. He, who at times experienced the feelings of being unnoticed, unheard, unappreciated, misunderstood, hated, and still willingly suffered and died for you. Our Lord’s suffering, death, and resurrection elevated and promoted you to everlasting life with Him. You are the center of His attention. I remember this at times when I feel that little tappity-tap on my shoulder accompanied by whispering comments of negativity, disconfirmation, and invisibility.
The truth is that life is uncertain, and our perception enables us to meet daily challenges with more or less support, more or less difficulty, more or less strength. We may not be able to physically see the person or people that support us and love us during times of difficulty and challenge. But we can be assured that there is one who will never leave us, never forsake us, never disappoint us. This exceptional person is ever-observant, ever-present, and ever-caring. He is my Lord. He is your Lord. He is the only one that Peekaboo will never work with. Gratefully, we are always seen by Him.
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.
~ Psalm 34:15
Until next week!
Dr. Marie Yvette Hernandez-Seltz is the founder of Candescent Counseling, Consulting & Coaching. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and an M.S. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. She has spent the past 15 years studying self-esteem, self-confidence, responsibility, and the effects of environment and culture on the individual.