A lot of my post have been more narrative, talking about particular moments in my life. This post, however, is about a particular topic: eye contact. Now this quite western idea that eye contact is linked with respect and politeness, in contrast though there are eastern cultures who find it more confrontational or disrespectful. So what is it about eye contact that’s so fascinating?
We all know what our eyes do: they see. When light is reflected onto an object back into our eyes we see that object by the signals taken in by the eye sent to our brain. So when your looking at someone else’s eyes imagine how many more signals are being sent to your brain you must be picking up on some signals from the other individual’s eyes surely? So with a processing condition like autism surely all this will be heightened?
I’m an autistic who does not like eye contact I’m someone who is processing too much rather than too little (those who will give really intense eye contact). I’ve always hated eye contact, from a very young age it’s almost like a phobia (I became afraid of Thomas the tank engine the TV show when he started rolling his eyes manically during the credits). It also used to get me in trouble when I was younger “look at me when I’m talking to you?” Or “are you rolling your eyes at me?”. I wasn’t very aware of what my eyes did back then I used to get told that they dart around. I imagine it’s similar to pac man escaping the ghosts but obviously I can’t see my own eyes. Already it was being ingrained into me that eye contact is important and it tells people that you’re being polite or interested. But we listen with our ears. When did it become the rule that we have to listen with our eyes too.
So I know a lot of specialists in the autism field, I see it at my school all the time, think that we should get autistics to make eye contact. Though have they actually asked why they find it difficult? That’s what puzzles me sometimes, why not ask those who understand the condition, again don’t get me wrong there are some who can’t articulate these thoughts but for those who can why not? So I’m going to tell you from my perspective and I’ll be interested if others agree. Whenever people have asked me why I find it difficult to give eye contact I say when I give eye contact I feel like my eyes are on fire, like a burning sensation. It’s painful. I can’t explain why exactly but it’s like my brain is just taking in too much visually and it’s then saying to my eyes I can’t cope it’s too much. This means when I have conversations I look to the side or focus on the eyebrows. I glance every now and then at the eyes but can’t maintain it.
So much importance is placed on our eyes, ‘eyes are the window to the soul’. I mean that’s what getting in relationships are based on, ‘I knew from the moment our eyes met’, etc. Maybe that’s why I’ve not been lucky in relationships. They help you communicate without words, a simple look into someone’s eyes and it’s supposed to say a thousand words. Though this will never be me. I won’t stare lovingly into your eyes, I will look away when you’re talking to me, my eyes will dart here there and everywhere. Though what needs to be clear is that I am listening, I am interested unless I say otherwise. Judge me by my words not by my actions. My actions don’t convey the same messages as yours do. Don’t force eye contact don’t let societies expectations cause you pain or discomfort, you’ll just have to find ways to convey your listening or whatever message it is in a different way. I look at their eyebrows, I find that helps or I glance to show I’m still engaged. But you must find whatever makes you feel comfortable.
Thanks for reading. Hope you like it. Peace out!