I wonder if all of us have had the experience of hiding REALLY well, perhaps while playing hide and seek as a kid (or maybe as a parent or sitter playing hide and seek with kiddos!)…hiding so well that we found deep satisfaction in the craftiness of our hiding spot and our cleverness in discovering it. During these games, how many of us have tensed at the sound of footfall coming close…held our breath…found tingling joy and excitement in knowing where “the other” was, while remaining hidden and unknown?
I like Hide and Seek. I remember even playing it with my dogs throughout the years; it can be really fun. And yet, there is a trouble in hiding too well. Robert Fulghum once wrote about the dangers of being a too-good-hider in his book, “Everything I Needed to Learn I Learned in Kindergarten.” In his tale he recalled a kid in his childhood neighborhood who hid so well no one could find him. After a while of looking hard, the seeker and rest of the gang would inevitably give up seeking and moving on to another game, leaving the expert-hider hidden, alone and disconnected from the rest of the pack.
Of course having too good of a hidey-hole, isn’t a potential peril only in the summer dusks of childhood. The pull for us to hide from ourself and from others follows most of us into the sunlight and moonlight of adulthood. And the thing is, many, many of us get really good at hiding. We’ve become hiding-experts just like the boy in Fulghum’s story. And we often stay too well hidden leaving us feeling alone, unreachable and disconnected from others and ourselves.
“Hide-and-seek, grown-up style. Wanting to hide. Needing to be sought. Confused about being found.”~ Robert Fulghum,
You see, it turns out our Mother’s were right…“It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.” And that hurt someone(s), in this case, is us…and the folks who love us and maybe even folks we meet throughout our days, who miss out on the experience of being with a fully present and authentic us. You see we are all hurt by our hiding and disconnection because we are wired for connection; it’s my belief that we are created for connection. And though there can be satisfaction in the adult version of hide and seek, “I am a rock”; “No one could guess what I’m dealing with.” There surely is no lasting joy or vitality or lightness in that tight cramped hiding space.
So if hiding so often leaves us sad and lonely and disconnected, even from ourselves, why do we do it? We know this answer don’t we? We hide because we’re scared…scared of being seen…scared of being judged or criticized…scared of not being perfect. (Oh, this is a popular one) We’re scared of not being good enough or even “enough-enough.” We’re scared of all the shut off bits of ourselves that have been wounded, bruised and battered (sometimes those are the scariest of all). This fear has us shoving large parts of our authentic selves into the shadowed and presenting our stale one dimensional cardboard stand-ins to the world.
Maybe we’re not quite scared to death; we’re just too scared to really live.
For all of us, there are likely people and places who feel more safe to us than others…these spaces and people are surely worth seeking out. And it’s certainly wisdom to start showing up more authentically in these safe spaces first. Because with some spaces and folks the fear of coming out of hiding and being fully present is warranted; it’s true, some people are just not that safe to be (ourselves) with. It’s also true that when we show up fully, other’s can (and often will) judge and criticize and point out our imperfections…of course that’s all stuff that we can use to grow and mature…but only if we are a safe haven for ourselves.
So one way to begin is by showing up and seeking out ourselves. Let’s call out “Olly, Olly, oxen free”..to all our parts cramped, from hiding too well and too long. We can let those parts of us know it’s safe to come out without getting tagged out. We can be safe for ourselves...singing our own version the “come out…come out. It’s safe here” song. And once we get better at singing this beautiful soulful freedom song to ourselves, we’ll be better at sing it to others too.
And what a beautiful gift that will be…
“It’s a joy to be hidden, but a disaster not to be found.” ~D.W. Winnicott
Today, may you smile more often, breathe more deeply and feel more at home in your own life.