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What Spring Water Made Me Realize About Eye Contact in Therapy

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Spring water.

Those are the two words that were staring back at me. Spring water, written on the label of my CVS pharmacy brand water bottle. I was in my therapist’s office, attempting to have a meaningful conversation, yet all I was focused on was spring water. The bottle was perched on a small table right next to me, and my eyes were fixed on it.

I’ve always had a difficult time with eye contact in therapy. Not just in therapy actually, but rather whenever I speak about intense topics, it is always hard for me to look directly at the person I am talking to. I think it makes it all the more real if I see the other person’s reaction; I don’t know exactly.

I once brought it up with my therapist. I told her I’m terrible at eye contact and it’s something I want to work on. At one point later in our session, I felt I was failing to look at her so I said exactly that: “Oh my gosh, I’m seriously failing at this whole eye contact thing!” She chuckled and said I was doing fine. The next week, we were talking about something especially difficult, and I literally look a pillow and put it in front of my face. This time she was the one to say, “Well now you’re really failing at this whole eye contact thing!” We both laughed at that one.

It’s hard to face your problems head on. It’s hard to look right at someone and say, “I am having a hard time. I am not OK.” But I guess the most important thing is to remember that, especially in the context of therapy, you are not being judged. You are not being made fun of. You are being real, genuine and honest.

So before you become so hypnotized by spring water that you don’t even know where you are, think twice about why you’re really there.

You want to face these things. You want to recover.

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Thinkstock photo via Chepko

Originally published: July 10, 2017
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