Avoiding eye contact – getting over a childhood shyness

Another great inner lightbulb moment lit up last week, thus:

Part of my very shy childhood (about 6 or 7 yrs onwards) was the looking down and turning my head whenever I made any direct eye contact with anyone except perhaps a relative or very close friend. Even then I seem to recall a tendency to do this. This was accompanied with a definite feeling of ‘being caught out’ looking at someone I (perhaps!) should not have been looking at.

One of the features of commuter travellers, especially those in London, is this habitual looking away – not making eye contact – as if it would invite a response, maybe open up the perpetrator to danger. The irony is – by portraying this habit, and all the accompanying body language of hung head, hunched shoulders, withdrawal into the self – the perpetrator is actually hanging a big label round their neck saying “I’m weaker, more feeble, I’m apprehensive, I’m vulnerable, I’m scared. So any predatorial person(s) seeing this will be invited to target the perpetrator!

So here I am, in a semi-busy train carriage gazing blankly in a general direction when a ‘gruff’ looking, ‘working’ man looks up from his newspaper and looks straight at me. Whatever the background intent of my gaze OR his look, I look away and drop my head to the right. Immediately I got the kinaesthetic surge back to my youth when I did this frequently and all the shyness and other associated feelings came flooding back.

That same morning our course delegates were working on some practical exercises of ‘mapping across’, so I took the opportunity to eradicate this eye aversion habit once and for all. For me it was about opening myself to all the possibilities, since I had no idea (at that stage) of the underlying structure of this behaviour. In the course of mapping (a) the submodalities of (behaviour 1) eye aversion and (b) an opposite behaviour 2 (strong eye engagement) – I had that moment of revelation well before my practical exercise partner was able to take me through the routine. Unconscious awareness I presume – I was Stanley meeting my own Dr Livingstone in the jungle of my behaviour patterns.

Happily I now know what trigger behaviour accompanies my eye engagement – and so on all the ensuing train journeys I practised this and it worked well every time. Praise be!

I could look at the anatomy of this behaviour as well, as there is going to be a ‘trigger for the trigger’ – or I could just integrate the trigger as a habit leading to an unconscious response and move on. The choice is now mine thanks to the structural revelation of the nature of the submodalities associated with two behaviours – one present, and one desired.

A wonderful ‘Aha!’ moment.