Can You See the Invisible Disability?

Do you get angry with the blind man because he cannot see?

The red-tipped cane marks his physical lack of sight. Are you personally insulted by his handicap? I’m truly curious.

Do you accommodate gracefully offering thanks that “ but for the grace of God, there go I?” Or, do you assign blame that if he’d only done this, or that, he could have chosen sight over blindness? What’s your rubric for grace?

How about the sighted young woman? That lovely, dark haired beauty who doesn’t match your criteria for how a smart, highly articulate, talented adolescent should “behave”. This physically whole, highly attractive and seemingly capable teen looks fine.  She has everything going for her. She has no cane to indicate obvious physical limits. Yet, she has an invisible disability. It’s so easy to judge what we do not understand.

In her case, mental health professionals would agree she is at risk. No one can see the scars that give evidence to her self-abuse. Does she get a different rubric for grace because you cannot see her struggle? It is hard to understand what we cannot see. Mental illness, whether minor, a temporary bump in the road, short-lived, like a cold, or major, the on-going, chronic malady like narcissism or depression, is with us and is not readily apparent.

Take narcissism. True narcissism’s outstanding characteristic is an inability to empathize. What is empathy? If your curious about how Brene Brown sees empathy, here’s her sweetly humorous take on it. Can you imagine not being able to stand with someone and recognize their suffering or delight? While knowing it’s not yours, understanding how they feel? It’s taking the perspective of another while keeping your feet grounded in your own experience. People with true narcissism cannot do that. Quality of life suffers for the narcissist as well as for those in their world.

While all of us may indulge in self-absorption from time to time, that doesn't equate to narcissism. The accumulation of “behaviors” that pile up to point to narcissism are somewhat predictable. There are ways in which people with narcissism operate with similar thought processing. Their line of thinking is different from those who can empathize. Recognizing the signs and understanding how they think differently is quite helpful to take care of yourself in their presence. The only requirement for success is to want nothing from them. Emotionally, it’s a one-way street. They are excellent playmates, but adult partnership is their blind-spot (pun intended).

Understanding that some disabilities are invisible, perhaps aggravating at times, allows us to dip into the well of compassion and stave off taking the slights personally. We tend to grant more grace to that which we can see, understand and relate to. Some things, like narcissism, are very difficult to comprehend until we see more clearly. None of that is to say adequate understanding paves an easy road. It’s steep and windy. But, it is more gracefully navigated when understanding exists.

Posted in acceptance, conflict resolution, education, family relationships, inspiration, narcissism, Successful relationships on 12/13/2017 01:00 pm

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