See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me

Posted on August 12, 2013


You may recognize the title of this blog as a lyric from the rock opera, “Tommy” by The Who.  The original album was released in 1969 and is generally considered the first rock opera.  If you have seen the stage production that has been touring for the last 20 years, it is a departure from the original storyline.  Pete Townsend was involved in creating the theatre production, and I guess it is his right to mess (up) with his own work.  Personally, I prefer the original.

The original story was basically Hamlet.  Tommy’s father is murdered by his mother’s lover (in the 1974 film version, he is referred to as “Uncle Frank”).  Tommy is witness to the murder.  He is told by his mother and her lover, “You didn’t hear it; you didn’t see it; you won’t say nothing to no one ever in your life.”  The trauma results in Tommy being deaf, dumb, and blind.  Obedient child that he is he does not hear, see, or speak to anyone for most of the story.  He is, however, captivated by staring at his own reflection in the mirror.  The trauma extends further to sexual abuse by his Uncle Ernie and physical abuse by his sadistic Cousin Kevin.  It would be a gross understatement to point out that Tommy has some family of origin issues.  As Tommy stares into the mirror, a running theme plays in his head.  “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.”  Tommy, in his inability to see, hear, or speak has become largely an object in the family rather than a person.  No one truly sees him, feels what he feels, or gives him positive affirming touch.

“What does this have to do with a blog about relationships?” I hear you cry.[1]  I am glad you asked.  Often distressed couples are coping with one or both partners feeling not seen and understood by their partner.  When fights repeat with each partner repeating the same words, it is likely that the reason for the repetition is that each feels that their partner has not fully understood their position and why it is so important.

When we enter into marriage, we bring our past traumas and family or origin “stuff” with us.  Everyone has some amount of trauma in this life.  Some are the big life threatening incidents.  Some are the emotional wounds that impact our view of self and relationships and our view of self in relationship to others.  No matter how good you had it, there are still moments of hurt that occurred.  These moments color how one attaches to and interacts with one’s spouse.  The negative cycles that besiege couples’ relationships are generally driven by legitimate attachment needs (e.g. the need to feel loved, valued, protected, validated, etc.), and some underlying emotional experiences (e.g. fear, hurt, loneliness, sadness).  The cycle particularly escalates when one feels that one has not been heard and understood by one’s partner.  Secure connection is key to healing both the wounds that one brought into the relationship and the wounds that have occurred in the relationship.[2]  We need to feel that we are truly “seen” by our partner.  We need to have our partner understand how we feel.  We need closeness and secure attachment.  “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.”

[1] You might also observe that I had pointed out in an earlier post that rock stars are not sages, and here I am building this post around rock lyrics.

[2] There will always be some wounding in relationship.  Human beings are imperfect.  We hurt each other sometimes.  We need to be able to recover from these hurts and keep the connection secure.