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Not making eye-contact with my therapist is a major problem I have. Most of the time I don't realize until afterward I have done it. When he is explaining something to me I am well able to make eye-contact, but like the last session where we discussed a very delicate subject I don't think I looked at him once.

I'm sure therapists find this rude or ignorant, I wish I could improve, but it seems to be an automatic thing with me.

Goose

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I'm pretty sure that therapists find people not meeting their eye to be "common", rather than "rude or ignorant", especially when someone's telling them something deeply personal. I know in my case, it often took an effort to look at any part of my therapist during difficult admissions.

If you think it would be helpful to be able to hold the therapist's eye, I bet you can manage it. But I wouldn't do it for their sake. You could always ask them if it bothers them; it never hurts to ask instead of making assumptions.

Perhaps you're being too hard on yourself. :-)

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Hi Goose,

Not making eye contact is not uncommon. I witness it most when we are touching on very delicate material, taking a sexual history for couple therapy or when there is shame on the person's part. I always assume it's how some people cope with a difficult situation.

Also, b/c >90% of my clients are "people of color ("minorities"), eye contact is seen differently in every culture. Americans are big on eye contact and see it as a point of pride (like a firm handshake), many Hispanics see it as challenging, confrontive and overtly assertive at inappropriate times (a firm handshake is interpreted as aggression and power grabbing). Native Americans and African Americans still have another view. I've learned to accept that this is how people deal with issues. Over time, however, little eye contact means I'll raise the issue at some point.

Essentially, it's a non-issue unless it's occurring in every session and for most of the session.

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I spent the first month or so of therapy looking at my therapist's shoes...the rug...anything but into his eyes. Sometimes if the material we were discussing was very delicate, I'd actually close my eyes. It's so hard being exposed to someone like that...with no method of escape. After some time I began looking at him more and more. By the end of my therapy, I was completely unafraid of maintaining eye contact with him. I think part of it for me was a fear of becoming attached and then hurt again. Another part was a fear of being totally seen by someone. I would think it would be fairly common when discussing very personal things. Maybe in time, as your trust for your therapist builds, it will become easier and more natural for you to look into his eyes.

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I doubt that your therapist sees your lack of eye contact as rude or ignorant. Don’t beat yourself up over it. I’m sure they have other clients who have the same problem. I have trouble making eye contact with most people, and it has been the same way with my therapist. I was so uncomfortable sitting face to face (I would look down and fidget with my purse or any other thing I could get my hands on) that he suggested that we sit side by side instead. This works pretty well. I hardly ever look at him, but I am able to be more open and say things that I would not, if I was still worried about making eye contact. Of course this is not ideal and I hope making eye contact will become easier in the future, but this is the best I can do right now.

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Thank you everyone for your advice. This has been an ongoing problem for me in therapy, I had started to improve as I became more trusting of him. I totally reverted last week - probably due to the nature of what we were discussing.

I do know that one of the traits of avpd is not having eye-contact, it just annoys me that I only realize afterwards what I've been doing, if I was able to catch myself at the time I would try not to avoid eye-contact.

Goose

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I didn't know gooses had shells. :-)

You could fill the shell with whatever they use to make pickles. That would help with the self-preservation. Unfortunately, as with most forms of self-preservation, it's likely to make you shriveled and sour. Is there anything we can do to make the process less ... unpleasant?

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I was going to change my avatar to a tortoise, so that I could readily retreat into my shell whenever I feel bad, I still might if I find a suitable image. Just shows how I am feeling to be considering ditching my precious Goose.

As much as I love vinegar (on my fries) , I don't want to smell like them.

There is so much stuff going on this week, dealing with the memory of the traumatic events of my childhood, my 13 year old going into hospital on Friday and me not being able to get the day off (his dad will go with him), trying to convince my husband that our 16 year old is worth fighting for and the overall feeling that I can't cope and stuff and stuff and stuff ....................

Goose

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Awww, your goose is so pretty.

Maybe all you really need is to believe that she can defend you just as well as any shell could. I don't know if you've ever experienced it, but a goose can give you a pretty good nip if she tries to. :-)

Would it help to lay out all your problems on us? Of course, we can't actually help you do what needs to be done, but my bet is that you don't really need help, maybe just a little faith.

So if you start to run down, remember we're here thinking about you, and we have some faith in you that we can spare.

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geese are really terrific fighters and great protectors! Have you ever gotten too close to the goslings and had not one but two or three mommies come after you? I honestly didn't do it on purpose....:(

It's really scary when they start honking really loud and spread their wings wide.

Hang on to your goose, Goose, she's so cute!!:)

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Hi Goose,

I read thru all of the posts and even thru previous comments regarding your avatar and realized that it might be possible that what I've said in the past (and possibly others) is not what is best or what you should be hearing (of course, only you can determine this).. it keeps you on formula, blended vegetables, and Gerber food long past your time.

What I know is that AVPD is largely based on excessive monitoring of your own behavior and any/all internal reactions and those of others when your engaged in interaction. Altogether, this micro-second by micro-second self/other monitoring is so taxing that it leaves you with great hesitancy, eye contact issues, and dysfluencies in speech.

My thinking would be that what may be needed is a more assertive statement on my part (and maybe others). It may just be me and how I process things, but it seems as if sometimes in my efforts to be helpful, my empathy becomes the overriding response and I'll remain locked in this stage. My thinking is that the most compassionate thing to be said is to challenge you to step forward daily (no matter how it panicky it feels), inch by inch (which your therapist is doing I think):

** go out daily for at least 30 minutes and meet at least 2 people,

** enter a store and greet no less than 3 people while there,

** while in line to pay for an item, make one comment to someone behind or in front of you regarding something of interest in the store or with respect to what they're wearing.

** Make it brief, make it short, make it fast... but make it happen daily. Walk out and freak out behind the store and go at it again the next day, only add more time or more contacts.

** In therapy, consciously, deliberately, emphatically, make it a point to look into your therapists eyes for 5 seconds every 2 minutes, then 10 seconds every 3 minutes, then 15 seconds every 3 minutes, and so on.

**Consider changing you avatar to something more indicative of strength. I remember suggesting to my wife, after 10 years in recovery from alcoholism, that she was no longer a recovering alcoholic: she was recovered! Keeping the label also meant that she was not fully empowered and that she remained defined by a set of early life decisions that no longer controlled her.

** Do a SUDS scale on yourself each time and see if the numbers move down over time.

If there's no store nearby, go to a park, around the block, down the street-- you pick the spot. Maintain this pattern for at least 1 month, w/o stopping, and see where you are. It will take much longer; however, stepping forward is the key: avoidance only maintains anxiety by allowing an escape route.

This may sound harsh and aggressive, and my intent would never to be this-- all I know is that it was facing my trauma head on that reduced it's power over me. And sure I still get triggered occasionally, but it was only the direct confrontation and the desire to forgive and step forward that allowed me to stop doing the Devil's work so that i could invest that time and emotional energy on other things.

What do you think?

Edited by David O
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David

Are you sure you don't have a direct line to my therapist. :)

This is the exact approach he is taking, I find it extremely challenging, he is quite relentless in his approach. I have improved greatly in some areas.

Just reading your suggestions sends my anxiety through the roof, however I know from what I have been doing in therapy is that every challenge I have done has been somewhat successful and the more times I do it the more comfortable it gets.

I have about 10 exposures (well really they should just be a way of life for me now) on the go currently, one involves going for a walk, keeping my head up and greeting people. More or less what you have suggested, now I have been avoiding it this week and your post has made me determined to follow through with it for the rest of the week, thank you for that.

My avatar? I am feeling very uncomfortable about changing that - maybe that is a good enough reason for change - Goose was my mother's nickname. I had little or no emotional connection with her when she was alive, I'm still desperatly trying to connect with her I suppose.

Goose

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Hey there goose,

I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone on this one. For years I have seen the same therapist, and I still struggle with eye contact ! However, this is with everybody. He is not exclusive. I feel that eye contact is over rated ! However, for the longest while I did feel bad about not being able to look at the therapist . I often wondered what my problem was. I revert my eyes every which way but towards him . Guess he is use to him, cause if I do look at him, he is turned away , facing his chair sideways , so he knows me real well. I fell stupid that it is a problem I have , and it goes a long way back from childhood. I am also NOT a touchy feely type of person. I hate physical touch. I loath it. I am jumpy,and it does not feel good. I get scared quickly if someone is too close to me, esp. if their is a tall, large man too close . my shoulders automatically go up and I cringe, Total strangers , apologise , I am embarrassed , but even my own child will sometimes go behind me, and I do not see him, he scared me , to death. He is taller then me as well, at 16. I told him so many times not to do that! He does not understand though! He is Developmental disabled !

I know for myself, I have PTSD, and literaly am home all the time myself. I keep it extremely quiet here, and dark, dim. I am very sensitive to noise, as well, and do not interact with people, they do not interest me whatsoever.

I am not lonely either. However, I consider myself extremely angry within, and do take many issues out on myself. This is my weakness. Or way to cope when I can't anymore. ANd when that happens, I will "go off" once a year, usually very severely hurt myself , requring hospitalization and surgical care .

Other times , I SI at less extremes. I do not know if I am really considered APD, but really advoid as much as possible, because the fear of being hurt emotionally. Physcially I can take it, emtionally I internalize it and nO .

Well , it is rough, and I feel for you. The safety comes from indoors , and the comfort is from the tranquilty of my bedroom, and computors, I will not forget my 2 precious little dogs . My son as well, even though he adds to an enournmous amount of stress, I love him dearly.

goose, do you take anything for your anxiety? if so does it help you accomplsih some of your goals?

Edited by mscat
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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Goose,

I am happy to "see" that we "see eye to eye" on this thing. :)

Forgive me, just my attempt at a lame joke.

Seriously, while you do not want to let this rob you of your motivation to visit you therapist it is also true that gradual exposure of yourself to eye contact will take a lot of the anxiety out of it, but, little by little. It is also important that you keep telling your therapist how you are feeling.

Do you know why you do not like eye contact and do you know how it makes you feel??

Allan

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I'm not sure why I do it Allan, It has become an automatic response not to make eye-contact.

I suppose being a very private person, I am trusting this person with some of my most hidden thoughts and feelings and if I were to see judgement or rejection in his expression I would be devestated.

However, he is very professional and is an expert in blank expression, so my fears are not well founded.

I plan to make a concerted effort with eye-contact at our next session.

Goose:)

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Goose,

Good, but, you should discuss your fears of judgment with your therapist.

As Shakespeare said, "The eyes are the windows to the soul." It is common to fear that others will see into us if they see our eyes. Still, discuss it with him. Anything regarding your therapist should be discussed with him.

Allan

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I think for some of us who are on the shy side or a bit introverted, the eye contact can be a little too much at times. Or at least in the beginning of a relationship. It doesn't come naturally because we're trying too hard. I've found that when I think more of the person I'm talking with and becoming involved with our conversation, it becomes much more natural.

Sometimes therapy feels like sitting in a room bare naked with a stranger who is staring at you. Undoubtedly they will see your faults with full clarity. There's no way to find any protection from full exposure. I used to slink down in the chair, cover my head, ask him to leave the room while he was reading my notes...stuff like that...One day he shivered and mentioned that it was cold in the other room. It was then that I remembered he's a person too. It was a "lightbulb moment" for me in therapy. He gets cold too. He has doubts, fears, worries... just like me. Knowing that your therapist is a vulnerable and imperfect human being much like yourself helps with the self-consciousness I think. We're all on the same journey and in this together. I never asked him to leave again. I didn't want him to feel cold.

As the trust in our relationship began to build and I knew that he would always accept me, I wasn't afraid to let him see. And there were times when he let me see him in some small way and that helped a great deal. I think it's about building your sense of self-worth as well. If you feel confident and accepting of who you are as a person, flaws and all, it isn't so daunting to let someone see. And I've noticed now that I really like making eye contact with others. It's a way of connecting with someone even if only for a brief conversation. The eyes really are everything. And in return you might be surprised to discover that others seem to respond more positively to you.

Maybe it will get easier in time for you to make eye contact with your therapist. How long have you been seeing him now?

Edited by IrmaJean
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Thanks Imrajean, it is good to know someone has got beyond this.

I am seeing him 3 months now, I have become able to fully trust him in the last few session, and had started to make eye-contact. I just reverted totally because of the subject matter of the last session.

I intend to bring this issue up with the therapist as Allan has suggested, and also gradually practice the eye-contact as David has advised.

It is very good to hear both sides of the table on this, especially what you and malign and others had to say about their experiences.

Goose

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Goose,

Good 1st step... removing the "Goose" avatar (even tho it was a connection to your mom). The turtle is a step sideways tho...you can still hide and self protect from your fears. How about something harmless but not indicative of flight: the globe, a map of your city, a picture of one of the churches in Europe, a Ford Mustang symbol or the one from Infiniti. Mercedes or Acura... even more aggressive, a Porsche. The possibilities are endless, let the symbol speak to a point ahead of where you are!

Edited by David O
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Well great improvement today at my therapy session. Certainly gave eye-contact for most of the session. I brought up this topic and he has given me an exercise for this week specifically based on this subject.

I am still experimenting with my avatar - I welcome comments. I am trying (as David says) to convey where I want to be.

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Well great improvement today at my therapy session. Certainly gave eye-contact for most of the session. I brought up this topic and he has given me an exercise for this week specifically based on this subject.

I am still experimenting with my avatar - I welcome comments. I am trying (as David says) to convey where I want to be.

Hi goose,

sounds like you have a very good therapist . your already improving with your eye contact during sessions, + your therapist gave you an exercise to help you :)

I struggle with this very issue , and for years have gone to the same therapist. I've brought it up before, however, he really did not adsress this at all . However, to be fair , i do not have very good eye contact with many people at all. But, in therapy , it is more then aparent. I guess it does not bother who I talk to because he has never even tried to help.

Now, about your new avater, very, very cute. Cat looking in the mirror! Does this have any specific meaning to you? Or have you chosen this one because it is adorable?

I am wondering if you have any personalized pictures of your own that you can for into a avater? not of yourself per sey, but of something that may have a significate meaning to you?

Example, My avater is of my Yorkie, Suzi. Suzi is my service dog. She is a part of my family and I just adore her . I also think she is very beautiful :)

Cathy

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