I'm ready to look to eyes, but is this normal?


#1

Is it normal to look into the eyes of passersby for about a second. When I look in the eyes, I get the feeling that I’m doing something wrong, unacceptable. I’m ready to face you, but tell me if it’s normal, to look people in the eyes


#2

Daulet, looking at people in the eye as you pass by is perfectly ok. I do it all the time and if I make eye contact I smile and say “hi or “good morning”. I actually think it brightens their day and that makes me feel good too. In terms of doing this in conversation, it is also perfectly normal (at least in Western culture) to look someone in the eye. Although you don’t want prolonged stares… normal is more like making eye contact for 2-3 seconds at a time. Hope that helps!


#3

thanks for the answer. Now I’m practicing this. I also noticed that others also look into each other’s eyes. We do not take a smile to passers-by, but just looking is normal


#4

Yes, it’s perfectly normal. I’m glad Bonzi answered also.

Let’s try to think these irrational thoughts through RATIONALLY. Communication is done through speech, gestures, facial expressions. In short, we LOOK at people so that we can better understand them when communicating. There is NOTHING strange or weird about this at all.

We also acknowledge people by looking at them. We are social beings at the end of the day, we should be aware of our surroundings, we have a natural tendency to look at other human beings. There is NOTHING weird about this. Probably, and most of you would know this, it is when we DON’T look at people that it feels weird, or perhaps can become weirder in our minds.

There is no reason to look at every person that walks by you. In a big city, that’s impossible. But it is VERY normal to look at some people, naturally, normally, for a quick second. EVERYONE does that. Yes, we can also talk about cultural differences, but having traveled enough, and having lived in Asia for over 10 years, I can say with certainty that it’s pretty much the same. Perhaps there are times when it is less appropriate to look at people in other cultures, but by that I mean to stare at them. That’s staring, not looking. And in those other cultures, I’ve been stared at quite a bit. In my country that would have been considered rude, but I didn’t mind it. I also know that I was in a different place and different etiquette is at play, and, for lack of anything else - I looked different than those people so naturally they might stare at me.

But all of that is getting into way more of a long-winded answer than ANYONE here on this discussion board needs to hear. What you need to hear is that it’s perfectly normal to look at someone, and it’s perfectly normal to do so many of the things that we have trained our minds into thinking is not normal. So, again, start trying to use your rational thinking about such things. Ask yourself, do other people look at other people or do they look at me? Of course they do. Is that all right, is that normal? Yes. Do I get mad or does it cause a problem? No. At least in all the years of my life and my experience glancing at people and even staring at them, nothing bad has ever happened.

And going beyond this, to overcome social anxiety, you DO want to be able to do functionally, socially acceptable behaviors. You do want to make small talk. You do want to be able to socialize. And, at least where I’m from, appropriate and normal behavior involves looking at people in their eyes from time to time while talking with them. That does not mean staring at them and never breaking eye contact. It just means normal, natural conversation where you make eye contact for a few seconds, break eye contact, continue talking, etc. And, also, where I’m from, normal polite behavior also involves saying hello to people when I pass them in the streets, if I’m out for a walk. It is very common for a person to wave and say hello here. So it is acceptable that I do the same. Maybe in another place that is less common, so fine. But here, again, if I want to build up my skills of socializing, if I want to take the initiative like it speaks of in the therapy, if I want to become more comfortable and accept what is rational, I am also doing these behaviors and becoming more rational and calm while doing them.

I don’t know your culture or where you are from, Daulet, but I can still guess strongly that eye contact is perfectly normal there and natural, as it is every other place I’ve traveled to. Perhaps people don’t say “hi” or wave to each other. Fine. You will know what’s acceptable there or not, but eye contact is perfectly normal.

Open your mind up to what is rational. Allow the possibility that you would like to choose what is rational, based on rational, true evidence around you. And go with that answer.


#5

Many thanks for the detailed answer. I think I understand that. The fact that looking at others in person, we pass on information and show that it is interesting for us to talk with this person. When I looked around while talking, the conversation was superficial and passed quickly. The reason for avoiding contact with me is probably my belief that I’m strange (but that’s not true). When I stop these thoughts and block these images, it becomes easier for me to maintain eye contact. Of course, I do not live in an African tribe and I think if I even smile at the sight, nothing terrible will happen


#6

So I think your response here shows something interesting - something that we all do with social anxiety tendencies.

First you posted if eye contact is normal. Yes, social anxiety can make our views of what is normal and rational very skewed and irrational. Sometimes simply crazy. But, I also feel that if I put your hand to the fire and demanded you to tell me if eye contact was normal, you would say yes, and you would say yes because rationally somewhere in your brain you know it’s completely fine and normal. So your question wasn’t based on not knowing that. Your question, as you say yourself, came out of this irrational belief that you are the strange one. Let me suggest that this is what social anxiety is, in a simplified way to describe it.

At first we may have started to develop social anxiety for any number of crazy, different, whatever reasons. I am not interested in the reasons. I’m interested in the now. But, we developed social anxiety for whatever reason and after so much time spent with anxiety, we develop these deeply held irrational beliefs like what Daulet says: “…my belief that I’m strange…”. And from THAT belief, all these other crazy, irrational beliefs or ideas get hold of every part of our minds and behaviors. It’s not as simple a story as that, but that is pretty much social anxiety after we get past the initial confusion and behavioral activities.

That crazy deep belief will allow all the other irrational thoughts to be possible.

We don’t get to overcoming social anxiety by jumping straight to that most deepest of craziest, negative beliefs. That jump is too big, and thus we slowly and gradually do this mind retraining through CBT. Doing that allows us to get there, to those deeper irrational negative beliefs, and we deal with those rationally too, often that takes more time. But, the way to deal with those deeper crazy beliefs are the same. Repetition, letting the message sink in again and again. This is true for self-acceptance, letting go of negative past feelings and events, perfectionism, and how we see ourselves and the world.

But before all this awareness, people want solutions just for eye contact, just for sweating, just for making small talk. Yes, I understand that. And we work slowly through the therapy on just some of those things, but all these things are symptoms now of that one central thing: my belief that I’m strange.

Imagine if you truly believed and felt that you were not strange at all, that you were just a person like any other. Rationally we may accept that now, but we want that to become a belief, a deeper feeling. At that point, these symptoms are not symptoms you would have anymore because they were coming out of an irrational belief about yourself which you no longer believe. Instead you believe you are completely fine - human, with flaws and great parts just like everyone else.

Luckily, at least in my opinion, we don’t have to worry so much about how to get there if we just keep doing the therapy.


#7

Yes, I think, first you need to take a small step and thereby destroy the categorical of your beliefs, breaking it into pieces. I also noticed that if it turned out to change one belief, the next one is easier to change, because you already understand that the deepest beliefs can be distorted, not correct. At the same time, I am frightened and amazed by the thought that most of my former convictions can be extremely distorted and false. I agree that avoiding eye contact is a symptom. And if you eliminate the cause, then the symptoms will disappear. Looking around, I see that people are not very different from me. I look in the mirror and think, and what if in my place there would be another person, how would I take it that would think about this man. Thus, looking at myself through the eyes of others, I understand that I do not differ from anything else. When I realize this, I become more free in society. But now these beliefs are not yet strong, and often I return to old beliefs. But now I know what the truth is and is ready to move forward


#8

You point out a good thing that comes up in Session 22 in the audio therapy series: handouts 3 and 4 in that session. The 4th is “Seeing Things from a Different Perspective”.

It’s a strategy that logically helps quite often. It’s similar to the way of thinking that we might have used when covering the Deserving Statements in Session 17. The idea is to take yourself out of the process of thinking what is rational. Ask these questions about what is true and rational for all other people. It is more likely then this process will result in a more rational, healthy answer that your brain can believe is true, and it is indeed true and rational, for other people. Other people deserve those basic things. Other people make eye contact and it is normal. And then you can start to gradually and more openly accept that the same is true for yourself. It’s not a difficult way of thinking or strategy to use. It’s not an undiscovered mystery that we suddenly reveal to you now, POOF! But, it’s a mental exercise that we may not be doing before. And it’s an exercise that can help. It’s another great tool to help our minds stay open to rationality, and to get out of a negative mood, more quickly back into a rational mood so that our setbacks do not keep us down too long, so that we can get back to therapy and solutions. Also, the main goal, so that we can feel less anxious and better about ourselves.

It’s a simple, logical approach, a way we can use our thinking to help us, and I think just like with all these simple, helpful tools - we don’t use them enough. USE THEM. Don’t just think them, use them like you did. Using these strategies we talk about, saying them out loud, combining them with the other strategies we are learning - all of that is active therapy.

I use this strategy in the handout “Seeing Things from a Different Perspective” all the time when I am out with someone doing behavioral therapy, behavioral experiments. When there is resistance and doubt, we go through a conversation where I ask them about other people. “Do you think that other person has a right to be here? Do you think that other person should be able to interact / ask a question / walk around without anxiety / use the public bathroom / ask for help from a salesperson or any stranger? Is it okay if that other person looks at someone else in the eye?” Usually we can all agree that OF COURSE. It is fine for that person. Then, logically, why is it not fine for me? Naturally it is fine and thus rational for YOU too. Your inner ANTs and ANFs (feelings) are trying to tell you wrong. But you interrupted that cycle by using the strategies to get your mind back to what makes rational, healthy sense.

Time, patience, persistence, and repetition - with all that, these ideas become true feelings that help support you in the moment.

:+1:


#9

Wow, I did not even know about that. So far, I’m on the 16th session and today I’m going to 17. Thank you for the answer. I also think in this style: And so, if other people, friends, acquaintances talk, get acquainted and are constantly in social situations without feeling anxious, it means that something is wrong with me. That is not with me, but with my thoughts about these situations. If they are calm in all these situations, it means that maybe I do not treat them correctly and these situations are not so terrible. After that, I usually become calmer