Friday, January 27, 2012

Making less eye contact

I am slowly shifting from trying to fit in to finding ways to be kinder to myself. Ways to help myself relax and feel more at ease in this world. And one thing I am experimenting with is making less random eye contact with people.

I don't know why I look at others' eyes so much. I did not do it at all as a child, but as I taught myself to look at others, I grew into the habit of making too much eye contact, even with strangers. Maybe on some level I was thinking that it was a way of acknowledging people, which is a good thing. But then - I seldom find this contact comfortable. And I suspect that my discomfort shows. With the result that I don't feel bad for not wanting to look any more. I am not doing them a favour, and definitely not myself. 

This past December I started not looking at people so much when I went out. In crowded places I kept my eyes at about hip height, and in less crowded places, I would deliberately look at the patterns on the floor, the clouds, the cars and their lovely number plates, leaves lying in the street. It is a hard habit to break, looking at people so much. But not looking at them is being kind to myself. The less I look, the more I can focus on what I am doing, where I am going, what I am observing and thinking. And suddenly I enjoy shopping a bit more and find going out less taxing. 

Some may see this as a step backwards. I don't. It took me so long to discover that I will never please others by trying so hard to not be myself. And it does not make me happy. I do realise that it may lessen the opportunity for meaningful contact, but the constant discomfort is taking too big a toll. I need to discover more ways to make my life more enjoyable. I am trying to let go of the word 'should'. I am learning that taking care of myself is not the same as being selfish. 


  1. Hi Cecile. Good for you! I know how uncomfortable it is looking at people around me when I'm out, and I direct my gaze away from them and concentrate on my inanimate surroundings. I believe you are right in that acting in a way that is natural to you is most definitely not selfish. I wish you well. Ben.

  2. I have found sunglasses make me way more comfortable in public since eye contact is physically not possible. And if I can look straight ahead instead of down, I appear more confident.

    I'm learning to prioritize where I spend my emotional energy, if I don't use it on random strangers, I have more to give to those whose opinions matter. When I'm shopping I have to block people out in order to get where I'm going, or take a round about route so I don't bump into them (still happens though, I hate narrow aisles)

    Sometimes the person it is hardest to be gentle toward is yourself, but it's the most important.

  3. It's interesting to reflect on eye contact, I never really thought about it deeply, but I find myself naturally reluctant to stare people "in the eye" - really reluctant. So what I sometimes do (especially when I interview people, not quite the same as chatting with them!) is concentrate on the rhythm of the conversation and force myself to look them in the eye when I want them to know that I am listening very hard, but I don't hold the gaze for long. I then find myself looking elsewhere, of course, but I use the rhythm of the conversation to manage the moments when I do seek eye contact, and the length of time that I maintain it.

    Thank you for this reflection - I am now more aware of something that really is quite important to how we deal with other people. I hope that valentine's day will bring you yet more love and joy in your life!

  4. Cecile, since we share 50% of our genes maybe some of my recent discoveries might be of use to you.

    In October or November last year our doctor diagnosed J with asthma, and she reckoned he would have his attacks (coughing fits) triggered by any upper respiratory tract infection. At about the same time A's reflux started getting out of hand, though he was a 'happy spitter' so we did not see the need to have it medicated. So I happened to recall a conversation with our lactation consultant, when J was born, about reuteri drops. I found some encouraging evidence on the net, and decided to try it. Within about 4 days A's spitting reduced by say 90%, he sterted having regular stools, and his winds and cramping became manageable. J's asthma cough improved, actually it all but disappeared, and together with that his flu and cold symptoms not as bad anymore. Where a cold would have lasted at least a weak or more, we are now down to 4 days max, and with very little coughing.

    So we all started out on the BioGaia's Lactobacillus reuteri Protectis every second day, the chew tablets, and the drops for A. Since A still had some issues with the introduction of solids, and B had a bit of an issue with IBS, I decided to Bifidobacterium infantis a try. It worked, not as spectacularly as the reuteri though, although it looked as if the prebiotic sugar upset A a little. It also worked sort-off for the IBS, but also no fireworks.

    Then I decided, because the reuteri is so very expensive, to culture my own. So I started making yogurt with only these two single strains. And about two three weeks into this things started to happen.

    (Since we also had the unfortunate diagnoses of postpartum depression for B, the one that we feel should rather have been a diagnoses of postpartum stress disorder, we also took a probioric containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus SD5217.)

    So as usual things were going really hectic with the kids the business etc. but suddenly B's irritability went away, the edge of her aggression disappeared as did the chronic fatigue. Even though we have not been able to get the regular exercise going due to her low blood pressure and life in general.

    Coming back to your post about eye contact and the way it sounds more like an social anxiety issue than purely as an result of autism, I also found some mind-altering things happening to me. I'm not autistic, but introverted and since both of us probably are genetically predisposed to a certain level of neuroticism this might be of interest to you. And here is what happened, I didn't feel neurotic anymore, not that I ever felt neurotic, but for a few days I felt spaced out, everything was just a buzz but I felt less anxiety, less worry, less urgency etc. And the funny thing is, it never occurred that I was that anxious and apart from some shyness I never felt that I could not cope with what life dished up. Anyways, things have settled now, but that anxiety threshold still seems to have lifted. So maybe that is what normal GABA functioning feels like?

    Now, it feels like too much of a coincidence that these effects coincided for both of us, so now it is only to try and find the mechanism. We know it's the bacteria influencing the GABA system, but did the Lactobacillus reuteri do it, was it the introduction of the low doses of Lactobacillus rhamnosus or the Bifidobacterium infantis, or was it because of the fact that we were consuming live bacteria? Or does it simply take three months to get the GABA system up to full speed again? I don't know, but I have read that all three those species have proven to improve mood, infantis on its own, and the other two in combination. The other thing is I don't know which Bifidobacterium infantis strain I've got but it is sold as "Infanteforte". And the Lactobacillus rhamnosus is not the one used in the clinical trails, I think, but it seems to work just as well.


  5. Subsequently I bought some more probiotics and I also made some yogurt with Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1, just for good measure, then I accidentally spilled most of it in the oven so after a taste test I just mixed it with the Lactobacillus reuteri Protectis yogurt, and I'll try that mix as my next starter culture. An then the next experiment will be to try Bifidobacterium longum and yet another strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus together as as starter culture.

    So anyways, eye contact, I have a similar problem, I manage always, always, always to lock eyes with the histrionic women in any group of people, but I will have to report on this once I've eaten a few more tubs of yogurt.

    It's probably not fair that my comment are longer than your post, but hopefully someone might find it useful.

  6. Hi! Thanks for following my blog. I clicked on yours and I find this interesting entry! I can really relate to this. I live in a very small town where people expect to greet each other passing in the street. So I feel obligated to greet someone. I find this very difficult. Do you live in a large community?