Therapy Weekend

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mytai

MyPTSD Pro
This weekend I have the first of three weekend group therapy sessions that span over the next three months. It starts Friday night, goes all day Saturday (early morning, until late evening), and all day Sunday (early morning start, early evening finish). It's a special thing my T invited me to, to help with my healing progress. Normally it costs a lot to go, but my T and the other therapist waived the fee for me and offered it to me. I have a few goals already set out for my self ranging from small and easily obtainable, to one major one. I attended my first real group therapy session last month, same idea with T and another facilitator, it was all weekend long, but this one is a lot more intense. One of my mid range goals is to make frequent eye contact with my T and the other therapist. I struggle greatly with eye contact, especially with T. It's something that is important for me to work on because I feel like I need to start pushing myself to connect more with her, that way I don't struggle as much to let myself express emotions. I avoid eye contact for various reasons; I find eye contact threatening, with T she knows very detailed things about my life and that makes it hard, if I'm emotional eye contact usually tips me over the edge and I cry, it also makes me feel very vulnerable and exposed.

Do you have any tips on how to work up to this? Do you have trouble with this too? I have the whole weekend, but my end goal is to be able to look my T in the eye for longer than a fleeting second. I have what I think to be a good relationship with T, I trust her, I trust her judgment, and I trust her not to hurt me - which is huge, that came recently in the last month. Logically I knew very early on that she would never hurt me (not intentionally), but emotionally I didn't believe that until about a month ago. I'm actually excited to see what happens this weekend, I'm less anxious than last time even though I know this group goes a lot deeper.
 

shell

MyPTSD Pro
That sounds amazing, I hope it goes well.

I have a lot of trouble with eye contact and being seen. I thought I had really improved in that area, until following a discussion two weeks ago I realized I focus on the background behind her head rather than actually focusing on her face.

I have moved a long way from the person who stared at the patterns on the rug, or at shoes. I think little steps are important, being seen for me feels very unsafe, because it was unsafe as a child to be seen.

Now I am able to look at her, and actually see her and focus for a few seconds at a time, each time I realize she is looking at me. I now support myself when I feel the panic, usually I tell myself it's okay, she will not reject me, or hurt me.

Being vulnerable is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength. When you can let yourself be seen, and not beat yourself up for it, it can give a great sense of achievement.
 

Friday

Moderator
Eye contact is... Interesting.

1) Most people don't notice, but it's one of the biggest subtle signals of dominance. It's a mammal thing in general, a social predator thing especially (think wolves, but also monkeys & apes...not the slimy guy at the club), which includes people. There are some slight cultural variations (some cultures have very codified eye contact, military is one, for example) but to the best of my knowledge they all run fairly similar.

- Peers can meet each other's eyes.
- Subordinates are either not allowed to make eye contact, or allowed to make brief eye contact & must look away first.
- Superiors can look anyone in the eye, can in fact insist on it, and don't break eye contact first except under certain conditions.

Wanna learn to make eye contact? Next time you're in public, make eye contact with strangers... And don't look away until after they do. LOL. It's freaking hard if you've been playing invisible for awhile (one of the tricks to avoiding people noticing you is to not make eye contact, or if you do by accident? to let your eyes glide over them or look away first). Someone always breaks eye contact first. If you don't notice it? You're probably the one looking away.

*** Really try not to do this one with your head tipped down. If your head is tipped down and you're looking partially upward?* It's known as a predatory gaze... And it freaks people out. Kicks off an adrenaline response even in normies. You can try it yourself in front of the mirror. Look at yourself, then tip your head down, but maintain eye contact with yourself. Then raise your chin. Lower it again. Almost like one of those dolls they used to make. Even without changing any other aspect of your expression? Just tilting your head makes a major statement in body language. It will also feel super unnatural to blink. You won't want to. Your eyes lock on something, especially other eyes -even your own-, and blinking slows to as much as 1/5th of normal. It probably won't rise your own hackles, but you can still see it. * Partial tilt down is predatory gaze, meanwhile totally tipped downward, (but still looking or fleeting glances from totally tipped down) are both a sign of shame. Blinking kicks up when your head is all the way down, as is the impulse to look to the side and away, instead of maintaining eye contact. Even with yourself. Again, try it in the mirror. It's trippy.***



2) "Soul Gazing" is a con-artists trick using the wonders of neurochemistry :D. If you stare at someone, while they stare at you, and you are in close proximity? Bonding chemicals (oxytocin & others) start dumping in our brains. Real, honest, true feelings of affection can develop if you are inches away from someone and staring into each other's eyes. It's totally trippy. I so did this on purpose with my son once I learned about it, but it's something most parents do with newborns, some parents do with older kids/adult children (especially after a fight... The locked eyes & hug & "Are we okay?" thing, but also with shared jokes, before a long goodbye/recent return, and other cementing connectedness rituals), and most lovers do as often as daily.

Does it work at a space of a few feet or greater? Nope. Not usually. The distance really, really, needs to be inches, except under times of stress. Whole lot of cool studies on stress & people being more attractive, catching eyes across crowded rooms, adults with babies & young children, etc. Which is fun, but only really relevant in that it's not a giant leap to think that trauma therapy is (or can be) a time of stress, and therefore holding eye contact... In addition to social dominance stuff? Adds a whole layer of pain in the ass to trying to maintain eye contact. Because if you've got bonding & trust issues, and your brain is trying to send those chemicals? Natural response is gonna be to look anywhere but at them.

There's an easy solution to that, however. Blink. Yep. That easy to break it. Looking away is even better (unless you're trying to learn not to break eye contact), but all you really have to do is blink. LOL...It's a staring only thing.
 

mytai

MyPTSD Pro
Being vulnerable is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength. When you can let yourself be seen, and not beat yourself up for it, it can give a great sense of achievement.
Thanks for your post @shell I think I will write down this line in my journal as a constant reminder. I think when I do accomplish my goal, AND put it into practice during private therapy with T (that will be the major test), that I will feel a great sense of achievement. Eye contact is HARD!

@FridayJones wow! Fountain of super cool knowledge you are. It's funny how instinctual it is, so much so that we really don't even realize it most of the time.

Eye contact is my goal because last therapy group weekend (the easier one), we did an exercise where we stood in front of a partner and had to maintain eye contact for one minute. It felt like 10 minutes to me, and it was amazing how quickly I got into panic mode, even with non threatening petite women. I had to break eye contact so frequently to fight the feeling of tears. T is safe, I need to teach my body and my mind to believe that fully - the only way I'm going to is by eventually making occasional eye contact with her. I know her rug, plants, and coffee table very well.
 
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