Look you in the eye

More complex then it first appears.

20. “I have a hard time making eye contact with people. I look away a lot when I’m speaking. I get startled very easily and it takes me awhile to get my heart rate back to normal.”   https://themighty.com/2017/06/childhood-emotional-abuse-adult-habits/

For me, this is two separate issues.  Startle response is extreme.  I jump at almost anything.  A paper blowing suddenly, a person stepping out from shadows, an animal crossing my path all of these come under the umbrella of hypervigilant attention and an extreme reactions to anything unexpected.  I worked hard at toning down my reaction.  I am faster at identifying the offending motions and more likely to slow my reaction.  Slowing down my reaction is part of self-regulation my counselor taught me when I am around people.  I still startle easily and it helps that my friends and family know it is a bad idea to startle me so give me warning when they approach.  I appreciate their consideration.

Not looking people in the eye is more complex.  One reason I don’t make eye contact is I don’t want to engage with the other person.  If I don’t look at people they are less likely to say hello.  I don’t want my looking at them to be an open invitation to talk to me.  I know I don’t come across friendly but I am over cautious when meeting people.  Give me time, I’ll get used to you.

The other part is a bit more complex.  I discovered the problem when I was in counseling.  In counseling, I made the decision to tell the truth no matter how painful.  However, if when I talked about ugly horrible truths and my counselor looked uncomfortable with what I was saying I would change what I said to ease his discomfort.  I paid him to hear my truth and I would lie so he wouldn’t feel uncomfortable.  I was trained well.  My parents didn’t like uncomfortable truths, they preferred pretty lies over ugly truth.  I adapted.  It was survival.  In counseling, I could tell him the truth but if I saw him get uncomfortable even by a flick of an eyelash I would alter the narrative until he was comfortable.  So when I had to tell him something extremely uncomfortable, I would stare at a spot on the wall and rattle off the information as quickly as possible.  Before doing this my counselor discussed my behavior and we selected this as a solution.  According to ‘many experts’ if you don’t look a person in the eye when talking to them, you must be lying.  Not true for me.  I can look a person straight in the eye and tell them whatever they want to hear.  This was survival training.  NO good for living but great when you are interacting with a person that might hit you if they don’t like what you said.

I am getting much better at this.  I recite rule number one daily, “Stop lying especially to yourself.”  I watch people in advance and choose to engage by looking them in the eye and offering the first hello.  I became better at this as I learned to love myself and recognize that I am a person worth knowing and I am not wasting your time if I say hello.  I’ve come a longgggg way on this particular issue.


One thought on “Look you in the eye

  1. Pingback: 20 of 25 Things | The Project: Me by Judy

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