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AIBU?

Eye contact in therapy

6 replies

sockthieves · 04/01/2024 21:01

I go to therapy every week. Issues around dysfunctional family growing up and relationships with them now. I really like my therapist but I really struggle with eye contact with her. I rarely look at her in sessions, usually only at the beginning or end of sessions when we're not talking about actual "therapy" stuff but more just normal everyday small talk. Mostly in therapy I just look at the floor or the wall or my lap. Sometimes I leave a session and realise I couldn't even tell you what she was wearing on that day.

I don't struggle with eye contact in life normally, except maybe in situations where I'm being vulnerable and sharing something very personal with someone. Do other people have this experience in therapy (and in normal life)? Or is this a problem?

OP posts:
financialcareerstuff · 04/01/2024 21:16

OP, you can do whatever makes you comfy in therapy- so I would not think of it as a problem you need to fix.

But it might be something you could learn from as part of your therapy. How are you feeling when sharing vulnerable things? What would be uncomfortable or scary about making direct eye contact? (Are you feeling shame? Or are you scared of being attacked etc...) And what might this teach you about your emotions and maybe history?

Therapy IS vulnerable so if you often struggle with eye contact when being vulnerable then it's natural this would show up here. Also, therapy can sometimes bring us back to childhood in way, so it may be something you used to do as a child?

If you feel able to and want to, you could even raise it as something to talk about with her.

sockthieves · 04/01/2024 22:56

Thanks @financialcareerstuff for your kind reply and reassurance that its ok to do what I need to to be able to engage in therapy. Struggling with eye contact when vulnerable and particularly in therapy probably is something that would be good to explore at some point. It does feel very deeply rooted for me though so potentially even to discuss it would require a lot of trust and safety to be built up first with the therapist. and it's still a relatively new relationship.

I'm curious to know though - are there people out there who are able to look at their therapist and make eye contact and see their reaction even as they share their most vulnerable thoughts and feelings? that is totally unfathomable to me Blush

OP posts:
AuntySueDoesntGiveAShit · 04/01/2024 23:01

When you talk it's actually normal not to make eye contact, your eyes look in different places as you are accessing memory. I look at someone if I am listening but not really if I am the one doing the talking.

financialcareerstuff · 05/01/2024 17:58

sockthieves · 04/01/2024 22:56

Thanks @financialcareerstuff for your kind reply and reassurance that its ok to do what I need to to be able to engage in therapy. Struggling with eye contact when vulnerable and particularly in therapy probably is something that would be good to explore at some point. It does feel very deeply rooted for me though so potentially even to discuss it would require a lot of trust and safety to be built up first with the therapist. and it's still a relatively new relationship.

I'm curious to know though - are there people out there who are able to look at their therapist and make eye contact and see their reaction even as they share their most vulnerable thoughts and feelings? that is totally unfathomable to me Blush

Yes, I think some people do, but it doesn't necessarily mean they are more confident.

I tend to watch people carefully, but it's a way of scanning for their reaction, not actually a sign of comfort.

Others might maintain eye contact out of confidence and openness.

Absolutely, there is nothing wrong with what you are doing, but indeed if it feels it has deep roots, and is a barrier for you, then whenever you are ready to explore it, I would expect any good therapist to be happy and receptive to explore with you.

Good luck!

mindutopia · 05/01/2024 18:02

That’s perfectly okay. In a normal back and forth conversation, we make and break eye contact regularly. But therapy is not that sort of conversation. I don’t think there is anything unusual really about that.

nothingcomestonothing · 05/01/2024 18:03

As a therapist, I'd say most clients probably spend more time not looking at me than looking at me, I hope that is reassuring!

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