"We grow up wanting to be known but terrified that we will be." *
That statement says it all: Our #1 desire – and fear – is being known. Neuropsychiatrist and author, Dr. Curt Thompson, puts it this way:
"We all come into this world looking for someone who is looking for us"
And yet, we can spend our entire lives wearing fig leaves, hiding our vulnerabilities, because of the deep fear that if someone were to really know us, they would not want to know us at all.
This fear, in turn, can cause us to avoid what is essential for being known: safe people - one or many others who will stay with us even as they get to know all of our story.
Curt Thompson has a podcast called Being Known, where he reveals his passion for the intersection of interpersonal neurobiology and spiritual formation. I love how he moves seamlessly between neuroscience and the biblical narrative. He toggles between both topics when he shares how vital safe communities are for our healing as well as our development.
One of the first things he establishes is the four basic needs of all humans: To be seen, soothed, safe, and secure.
There it is again: this concept of being seen, which is part of being known. We are born with this need. And yet, none of us came from perfect FOO’s (Family of Origin), which means we don’t necessarily come through childhood and adolescence, and into adulthood, with these four basic need buckets filled.
What I have experienced is that God is faithful to meet these needs, even if He has to use someone other than the expected providers.
In my life, I had an aunt – one of my mother’s younger sisters – who saw me in my early years.This is before she had her own children to nurture. She called me Yog (and still does)- short for Yogi Bear (I guess I must have been enamored with the bear!).
She would come to our house and find me in the chaos and say, “Hey Yog, you wanna go buzzin’ with me?”
That meant she was taking me out on the town, even if just for running errands, in her cool sportscar. We would visit her stylish friends, who knew how special I must be to be included in such rendezvous.
Aunt Rosie made me feel seen, soothed, safe, secure.
The next time I remember experiencing the indescribable feeling of being safe and seen was when my future husband entered my world. I was a sophomore in high school. He was a well-liked jock in his junior year. And now, fifty years after our entrée into one another’s world, he still reflects what shocked me back then about him:
He loves me for who I am, not what I can do (for him).
If you are familiar with the Enneagram, you can imagine how mind-blowing that felt to this budding Type 3 who had already internalized the lie that to be loved I had to perform!
I am deeply grateful God picked a life partner for me who would consistently remind me that God loves me for who I am, not what I can do (for Him).
I am sharing this for a few reasons:
To honor those who fill roles in our lives that contribute toward forming secure attachment in our formative years. Thank you, Aunt Rosie!
To suggest that we all dare to not be afraid of being afraid, and look for a safe place of community where we can risk vulnerability and gain the gift of being known.
I’d like to sum up this thought about being known - how needed yet scary it is - by sharing this poem, written by my sister Michelle; given to me on our 25th Wedding Anniversary.
It’s All in the Knowing
Vows are exchanged, true Love is found
But the seed of this Love lay atop of the ground
The tilling, the softening, the breaking must be
For the Life of the Love is found in the seed
Enduring the seasons of storms in the night
New mercies awaken the dawn with His light
Kindling the flames, preserving the core
This seed has a chance to become so much more
But the soil of the heart needs loosening still
Removing the rocks, releasing the will
Preparing the ground to fully receive
The fullness of Love that dies with the seed
Hidden in darkness, a change taking place
Nourished with patience, forgiveness, and grace
Now a Love that is rooted, grounded, and sure
Regards with affection the cost to endure
The wilderness droughts, through the winds and the rains
The planting preserved, and the beauty remains
This vine and branch so intertwined
One exulting the other, by His design
Where can the secret to this Love be found?
Just look at the roots from the seeds in the ground
Deeper and deeper, these roots keep on growing
For the Life of the seed is all in the knowing.
To hear more from Dr. Curt Thompson:
His books: Anatomy of the Soul, The Soul of Shame, The Soul of Desire, The Deepest Place: Suffering and the Formation of Hope.
His Podcast: Being Known
[*The author of the opening statement is unknown, but I encountered it through a post by a LinkedIn connection. Thanks for the inspiration, Andy!]
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