In my opinion, the world has become populated by too many people who are numb, and I believe that the anecdote to numbness is the ability to see. By this, I don’t mean the ability to look. Looking and seeing are two separate things. Even flies can look. Looking is nothing more than image recognition. Seeing is a deeper thing. It has to do with perceiving and with understanding and the imagination. Seeing has to do with empathy and feeling and it is not the same thing as having sympathy.
Douglas LaBier, Ph.D., a business psychologist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist, is the Director of the Center for Progressive Development in Washington, DC. LaBier distinguishes between empathy and sympathy. The ability to pity another is not the same thing as empathy, which is the ability to experience through another person’s lens. The merely sympathetic recognize another’s issues through their own lenses–in ways that they can rationalize to suit themselves.
LaBier says that people who become obsessed with acquiring lose empathy:
“But many of the people I see everyday, whether in psychotherapy or executive consulting, struggle with their own versions of the same thing through too much emphasis on acquiring – both things and people. That’s going to promote vanity and self-importance. Then, you become increasingly alienated from your own heart, and equate what you have with who you are.” Read More Here
Further research indicates that not all narcissism is related to selfishness and acquiring. Some narcissists fall on the autism or Asperger’s spectrum:
“For many of those with autism or Asperger’s, mindblindness, or lack of Theory of Mind creates major barriers to communication and closeness. These barriers often lead to those nearest to the individual feel, whether real or perceived, a lack of empathy from the individual.
“When I think of Theory of Mind, I think of an amusing, but of course very inaccurate, belief I harbored as a young child. While playing games like hide and seek, I used to think, “If I can’t see them, they can’t see me.” Of course, I learned very quickly that that was not the case. However, the mindblindness of individuals with autism or Asperger’s can be similar – “If I can’t/don’t feel it or perceive it, then they can’t/don’t feel it or perceive it” (or vice versa).
. . .
“While some professionals will say, as in a quote from Stephen Edelson Ph.D., ‘..many autistic individuals do not understand that other people have their own plans, thoughts, and points of view,’….” Read More Here
I often write about narcissism. Several years ago, I read Scott Peck’s book People of the Lie. I had suffered from a particularly painful experience that involved another person who seemed to have no empathy at all. This person was not obsessed with acquiring. I believe that this person’s problem was more that of an element of autism, which had rendered him devoid of empathy. Without empathy, there can be no conscience, and without conscience, evil can easily occur because people who cannot see others and feel for them, rarely see their own behaviors. That is a defining characteristic of the narcissist. The narcissist views himself as the perfect who is attempting to function in spite of the imperfects around him. It has been 25 years since I read the book People of the Lie , but if I am not mistaken, excessive narcissism is essentially the phenomenon that Peck addressed there.
One of my most often-read posts is about narcissism and is titled: “A Narcissist Might be the Most Evil Person that You Know” Here. Several people search for and read that post everyday. This fact gives me hope. It tells me that while narcissism persists, there are many people who are seeking to rid themselves of the problem. I believe that everyone is a bit narcissistic. That is how the human race survives, but like many others, I continuously appraise myself and buffet myself–seeking to keep my own narcissism in check.
“Fear that I was very different from everyone else. Fear that deep down inside I was a shallow fraud, that after the revolution or after Jesus came down to straighten everything out, everyone from hippies to hard-hats would unfold and blossom into the beautiful people they were while I would remain a gnarled little wart in the corner, oozing bile and giving off putrid smells.” ― Mark Vonnegut, The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity
A severe narcissist does not examine his or her behavior. He or she has deluded himself into believing that he or she is beyond the need for self-examination. Have you met the Queen of Denial? She is probably a narcissist. Narcissism can occur at various levels, however–but at an extreme, the narcissist becomes a sociopath. In most instances, narcissism is rooted in a lack of seeing, a lack of empathy, and a numbness.
Fyodor Dostoyevsk writes that much of the world has become numb. He says that there is a place underground where he retreats from the uncaring, unfeeling mob and that it is from that underground retreat that he writes. He adds that books are the winged messengers that fly above ground and that they are an essential witness to the people above:
“Leave us alone without books and we shall be lost and in confusion at once. We shall not know what to join on to, what to cling to, what to love and what to hate, what to respect and what to despise. We are oppressed at being men — men with a real individual body and blood, we are ashamed of it, we think it a disgrace and try to contrive to be some sort of impossible generalised man. We are stillborn, and for generations past have been begotten, not by living fathers, and that suits us better and better. We are developing a taste for it. Soon we shall contrive to be born somehow from an idea. But enough; I don’t want to write more from “Underground.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground, White Nights, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, and Selections from The House of the Dead
True artists and writers must never become numb to life. They must learn to look for the fire that is always burning somewhere. The artist must learn to see the marrow of life, and he must learn to distill it in order to share it with those who do not see.
“Je vois les autres.”–Pablo Picasso [I see for others]
I have never tested the hypothesis, but I speculate that people who write from within their souls have expressive eyes.
“Blue is the most common eye color in Oria Province, but there is something different about his eyes and I’m not sure what it is. More depth? I wonder what he sees when he looks at me. If he seems to have depth to me, do I seem shallow and transparent to him?” ― Ally Condie, Matched
People who truly see are those who have learned to strip away the outer bark of their existences and to tap what lies deeper within.
“Am I shallow? she asks the mirror. Yes, I am shallow. The sun shines on the ripples where it’s shallow. Deep is too dark.” ― Margaret Atwood, The Heart Goes Last
I believe that what people discover from deep within will be reflected in their eyes. You can often look into the eyes of someone who does not feel–and you will note that empty wells are where the eyes should be. On the other hand, when there is feeling within another creature, it floods from its eyes.
I have taught art most of my life, and every time that I teach anything about faces, I repeat the quote, “The eyes are the windows to the soul.”
Ipad Drawing to Look Like Red Chalk – Jacki Kellum
I tell my students to draw the eyes as quickly as possible. If the student cannot make the eyes talk, the painting or the drawing will never work.
“If there is a true measure of a person’s soul, if there is a single gauge of real divinity, of how beautifully a fellow human honors this life, has genuine spiritual fire and is full of honest love and compassion, it has to be right there, in the eyes.
“The Dalai Lama’s eyes sparkle and dance with laughter and unbridled love. The Pope’s eyes are dark and glazed, bleak as obsidian marbles. Pat Robertson’s eyes are rheumy and hollow, like tiny potholes of old wax. Goldman Sachs cretins, well, they don’t use their own eyes at all; they just steal someone else’s.” – Mark Morford
The entire creative process begins with the ability to see. It begins with the eyes. The eyes have it.
“The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter – often an unconscious but still a faithful interpreter – in the eye.” – Charlotte Brontë
©Jacki Kellum July 28, 2017