Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Tag: Seeing

SEE – Don’t Just Look! – Avoid Numbness and Narcissism

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

Image result for jacki kellum queen of denial

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


The Blind Leading the Blind – Learning to Atually See and to Say What We See

Have you looked carefully at Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s painting The Blind Leading the Blind? It was painted in 1568, and yet, it still speaks clearly to humanity’s goat-like tendency to thoughtlessly follow the crowd. Following the crowd can have severe adverse effects upon any of us who would like to create.

In most cases, we follow the crowd because, for one reason or another, the crowd seems to offer us some kind of security. Perhaps we like the crowd because it seems to be the popular place to be and has the seeming safeness of numbers. We think, “There are more of them than there are of me; therefore, ‘they’ must be right.”

When we create, the crowd becomes part of what Julia Cameron calls the Censor in her book the Artist’s Way, where she said that people have logical and linear behaviors embedded within them. She says that this logical behavior is part of one’s survival instinct, and she says that the part of ourselves that tries to discourage us from creating is part of this logical behavior that makes us believe that we need to be the same–or part of the crowd.

“Logic brain was and is our survival brain. It works on known principles. Anything unknown is perceived as wrong and possibly dangerous.  … Logic brain is the brain we usually listen to, especially when we are telling ourselves to be sensible.

“Logic brain is our Censor….Faced with an original sentence, phrase, paint squiggle, it says, ‘What… is that?

. . .

“Any original thought can look pretty dangerous to our Censor.

“The only sentences/paintings/sculptures/photographs it likes are ones that it has seen many times before. Safe sentences. Safe paintings.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 12-13.

While our logical tendencies seem to be safe, they are an enemy to creativity, and logic is the haven for the Censor. The Censor wants to scare us into editing the very life out of everything that we would otherwise like to create.

When I was a kid, a teacher questioned crowd behavior, asking: “If the crowd was jumping off the cliff, would you do the same thing?”

In Bruegel’s painting, the blind man seems to be leading the blinded crowd behind him off the edge of a cliff. What if the blinded crowd were actually a bunch of sighted people who refused to see? What if those who seem to be blindly following along are a  bunch of minds with their lights turned off? If those who refuse to see and those who deliberately dull their minds are desperate enough for acceptance, they may very well turn off their own lamps–simply to follow the crowd. Those people will have difficulty creating something original.

Before we can begin to be authentic creators, we must dare to step away from the crowd, and we must dare to see and to think and to create from what is true to our own selves. While being an individual can be scary, it is the only way to create something new. Furthermore, creation, by its very definition MUST be about something new–the scary, the unproven, the unsafe, and the different.

A couple of days ago, I began to question whether I truly wanted to create or whether I was merely playing at creating. I was tallying all of the excuses we make for not wanting to go out on the limb with our writing and our other creating. While we are great at finding excuses for not taking risks, the bottom line is that we love to live in denial. We love to be safe. We resist change, and we love speaking in code so that others may not guess too much of what we actually are–so that even we don’t see too much of who we really are.

Image result for kids drawing of a house

When we were very young, someone that we accepted as authority told us the “correct” way to draw a house and a sun and clouds and trees and flowers. Afterward, we learned those images and accepted them as symbols to represent the simple things in our lives. in the same way that the letters “H-o-u-s-e” spells “house,” we learned to draw boxes with triangles to say “house” in another way. Our simple little drawing says nothing about how we feel about the house, it simply says “house–the house that everyone in the crowd accepts to be a house.” If we want to write about a house or to paint our feelings about the house, we must move away from the code that the crowd has taught us. We must dig deeply within ourselves and find a way to say something that actually is deeper than words. We must move beneath the external and into our own internals, and sometimes that journey is scary.

As we mature, we tend to find more and more complex codes to reference things that we have difficulty saying, and that we have difficulty acknowledging to ourselves. As we become better and better with language, our codification grows complex, but any time that we reach within our tricky selves and pull out a pretty phrase or groups of paragraphs to replace the act of digging deeper for true meaning, we are still using code. Creating requires of us that we remove our own blinders and to shine a bright light on who we actually are and to speak from what we see–and not from the pretty phrases that we have banked to keep us from saying what we truly see.

©Jacki Kellum April 10, 2015


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