Sunday, November 1, 2009

Laser stare does not equal empathy.

Following on from my previous post, there were a number of things about this psychic that made me...well... a little uncormfotable. One of those being the intense I contact that she maintained, making if feel rude for you to look away.

This is an issue I've come across in therapy, with my case manager and definately whilst on the ward. I guess there is imbedded an idea that people with poor eye contact are deceptive or hiding somthing. The reality is, in a normal conversation, eye contact averages about 30-60% of the interaction. This is because usually those interactions are whilst in the middle of other tasks or activities. Thus eye contact is reserved mostly to demonstrate from time to time that you are still engaged and listening, or to get somebodies attetntion.

In the therapy room, or in the hospital consultation rooms, there isnt that extraneous activity, and eye contact seems to be regarded as a way mental health professionals can show they are really listening and hearing. We appreciate that. But when it is spooky almost non stop eye contact.... it freaks us out! And it seems.... almost...intrusive, there is no place to retreat and gather your thoughts.

Conversely, my eye contact, jumps from a steady holding gaze when I'm looking for an answer, to crazily bouncing around thr room, taking in paintings, furniture, lint on my clothes, when I am trying to give answers... because I'm flustered. I feel like a bug under a microscope. The hypervigilance from the PTSD doesn't help matters either.

So in conclusion, 'positive' eye contact, like 'unconditional positive regard'...isn't actually always positive. It makes us feel unsettled and it makes the health professionals seem specious and artificial. JMO.

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