Going Invisible

Posted on October 22, 2012


We’ve got a blind date with destiny, and it looks like she’s ordered the lobster. 

Mystery Men is a film about three friends who aspire to be superheroes and work at it with minimal success.  They decide they need to recruit some additional heroes to join their group.  Among the potential superheroes they interview to join their band is the Invisible Boy.  The three men show up at the apartment where the Invisible Boy (a teenager) lives with his father.

Shoveler:  We’re looking for the one they call “The Invisible Boy.”

Invisible Boy: Wow.  All my life, I’ve been ignored by people.  Finally, after years of being overlooked, I found I have the power to disappear.  It’s real ironic how it happened ‘cause…

Mr. Furious: Can we come in?

IB: Well, yeah, sure. Come on.

Mr. Furious: Thank you.

IB: Hey, Dad, I’m going to my room with three strange men.

(In room)

IB: …And that’s pretty much it.

Shoveler: Let me get this straight.  You do have the ability to become invisible?

IB: Yes.

Mr. Furious: But you can’t give us a demonstration?

IB: No, I can only become invisible when no one’s watching.

Shoveler: So, you’re only invisible to yourself?

IB: No, if I look at myself, I become visible again.

Mr. Furious: So, you can only become invisible when absolutely nobody is watching you?

IB: Yes.

Blue Rajah: Do forgive our incredulity, but I’m wondering how you can be certain you’ve achieved transparency at all?

IB: Well, when you go invisible…you can feel it.

The scene is simultaneously funny, insightful , and sad.  It is funny that he asserts that he can go invisible though no one including himself has ever seen him do it.  It is insightful because in a manner of speaking, the Invisible Boy has gone invisible.  Even within his own home he is ignored; he is unseen.  He can tell his father that he is going to his room with three strange men and not draw a response.  It is sad because it is traumatic to feel that you are unseen in your relationships.  A feeling of isolation is inherently traumatizing.  When you go invisible, you can feel it.

You may have had the experience of going invisible.  Have you even been in a restaurant where you have not seen your server in some time?  Other people seem to be getting service, but no one has stopped by your table in the last 15 minutes.  When I have had that experience, I look across the table at my wife and say, “When you go invisible, you can feel it.”

Comparatively speaking, going invisible in a restaurant is not so bad.  Certainly it is not when compared to feeling invisible in an attachment relationship.  Between spouses or for a child with a parent, feeling invisible is unbearable.  The most common negative cycle that impacts marital relationships is one in which one partner pursues and the other withdraws.  As Sue Johnson (2008) observed, an attachment relationship is the one relationship in which any response is better than no response at all.  When you go invisible, you can feel it, and it does not feel good.  When the cycle gets going, each partner can begin to see his or her partner as the enemy when, in fact, the negative cycle is the common enemy of the relationship.  The cycle is powered by a failed attempt to have one’s attachment needs met: to be seen, heard, understood, valued, supported, and comforted.  It takes work, but negative cycles can be overcome, and closeness and connection restored.


Johnson, S. (2008). Hold me tight: Seven conversations for a lifetime of love. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

“I work with individuals, couples, and families to help develop secure connections
and craft manageable solutions.”

More information is available on my website www.scottwoodtherapy.com.  I am also available for speaking engagements, seminars, and retreats http://scottwoodtherapy.com/Page5.html.

Scott Wood is a registered marriage and family therapist intern (IMF67385) and is supervised by Dr. Melinda Reinicke, Psychologist (Psy11011).