Invisibility is considered a superpower, said someone who hasn’t lived feeling invisible to the world andWhat makes this existential concept utterly soul-destroying is the problem is outlined in indelible ink!!!
Ralph Ellison, Author of The invisible man describes his experience of invisibility beautifully.
“It goes a long way back, some twenty years. All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naive. I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realisation everyone else appears to have been born with: That I am nobody but myself. But first I had to discover that I am an invisible man!”
After two decades of meticulous listening to people sharing their deepest secrets and fears regarding life, alongside 45 years life experience, much of which has been chaperoned by an insidious and unfathomable pain.
I now understand this indescribable sorrow, was the result of being in the clutch of invisibility. Fortunately, my fierce determination to understand and make peace with the unfolding chaotic nature of life has brought me to this point of awareness in my life.
I’m a fan of Irvine Yolam and this quote makes sense to me
“Existential isolation impregnates the “paste of things” and hides within our lived experience, and we experience only a world of everydayness and routine activities. “We are lulled into a sense of cosy, familiar belongingness; the primordial world of vast emptiness and isolation is buried and silenced, only to speak in brief bursts, during nightmares and mythic visions.”
The flowering of my breasts in my teens gave me something to trade. Low cut tops were a shortcut to attention. Attention which made me cringe and run for shelter when confronted by the scrutiny of others.
In the absence of being seen or noticed, I craved it, yep, an absurd paradox.
My appearance on the world stage with the boobs was short lived. At 15years old, I left home to live with a guy who beat me and locked me up like a scabby stray dog. After, seven years of his cruelty and losing eight pregnancies, two angels appeared called Niobe and Echo.
These angelic delights are my daughters, whose presence in my life forced meaning and purpose, I’m grateful to their unconditional love.
We (three musketeers) found the collective strength to slay this toxic dragon and give this man the boot. The foreboding dramas of life had seduced my attention for far too long. Invisibility eluded me on far too many occasions.
Why did I chose to walk alongside men who only reinforced myself hatred?
It’s simple; they acknowledged my existence with violence. Yes, I know, it’s an extreme form of validation, but it was the only acknowledgement I deserved. Any form of positive acknowledgement was unbearably alien to me. (My relationship and bond with the notion of a masculine God was at play here, but that’s another story)
If I died during my dramatic years, this would have been my epitaph.
I am an invisible woman,
bones and skin,
nothingness is my totality
An indelible soul
Lost in imaginary space.
Depraved loneliness was my reality tunnel and the constant dramas and feeling of being so alone, were reinforced from the outside world.
My relentless internal arguments which ranged in intensity from whispers to shouting only served to strengthen a childhood soul fracture.
It was all too much to handle in my naivety, drugs and self-created chaos, offered solace from my constant inner dramas. Thanks, crack cocaine- You were once a good friend.
This existential isolation was the core of numerous prevailing symptoms, that presented in extraordinarily self-destructive and unsociable behaviours. Over the years, I’ve addressed and changed the unfavourable behaviours which played significant roles in my addictions.
For those who haven’t “done time” in existential isolation will find this nonsensical. In truth, it’s as illogical as low self-esteem.
The difference being, self-esteem is mainstream in the world of psychological health. Existential isolation or nothingness is the master or railroading the search for the “something” in the nothingness.
Why would anyone choose to live with a violent thug instead of staying rent-free in the comfort of my childhood home? It didn’t make sense. It was chalked up to supreme idiocy by my family. I humbly took this title as a fundamental truth about me.
My boyfriend at the time clearly had a different experience with existence; He was highly visible and recognised by others with juvenile adoration. He was loud with a formidable reputation and held the metaphorical ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
Unknown to me, I yearned access to the magic world of acknowledgement and needed to stay with him to gain access. My conscious confusion regarding my mission for visibility superseded any sensibility, as an existential need motivated me.
Existential isolation is a desolate landscape to walk, if you are there I feel for you, but trust me you are not alone. During my bleaker times, death appears to be the only real option out of the shit hole. Over the years I’ve changed what feels like deeply held conflicts and behaviour that fed a plethora of addictions, all of which unknown to me, related to a soul loss.
A loss that left me abandoned in a world where I could see and touch others, but felt like I was experiencing life through a lens as an invisible voyeur.
Existential isolation follows a trauma, a shock or a disassociation.
- Have you had that feeling when you experience something so shocking your breath is expelled out of you?
- It feels like you have been hit in the guts?
It’s common for people to say after a soul loss, “I’ve never been the same since X” and that is when our soul disappeared. My granny died when I was eight years of age, at the same time, I lost my mum; Mum was here in body, but her soul was somewhere else.
The world of innocence and safety was ripped away from me leaving me confused in a barren dissociation from the world.
Yalom writes, “No matter how close each of us becomes to another there remains a final unbridgeable gap; each of us enters existence alone and must depart from it alone. The existential conflict is thus, the tension between our awareness of our absolute isolation and our wish to be part of a larger whole.
Signs of existential isolation
- As we become more accomplished in existing in a world of invisibility, we learn to put on a show to survive to interact with others. The show is only manageable in short periods of time Leaving you exhausted if you exceed your manageable social limits.
- Feeling of dread of social events, anticipating being worn out as a result of putting on a show. (without the show there is nothing if you don’t exist)
What can you do?
- Create a timeline of significant events from your life from birth to now, and pay attention to events that stand out and may be a precursor to a change in your story? When did the world change for you?
- Talk, meditate, write about that event make sense of it, what happened to your relationship with you and the world as a result of this event? What decisions did you make about yourself as a result of this event/trauma?
- Consider how you can yield responsibility and become the author of your life.
- Translate the old pain into courage, an act of courage that gives you permission to unfold into the world and embrace your unique expression and perception of life.
- Then share that with other people, and you know what? That sharing creates powerful validating feedback.
Scribbled by my heart, what are you thoughts? Have you experience existential isolation?
Alexia Elliott Jungian inspired Hypnotherapist & workshop leader Leicester England