Can the Dual Gaze Reconcile a Broken Relationship?

Can the Dual Gaze Reconcile a Broken Relationship

Making eye contact is a powerful form of communication.

Along with posture, expression, hepatics (touching), and proxemics — nearness and distance — nonverbal behaviors send and receive signals that cause a significant increase in nervous system arousal.

Prolonged eye contact may also initiate changes in the relationship between people who were formerly close.

The “dual gaze” is the most powerful of these behaviors; it’s a two-way street that serves both to signal and receive information.

Research indicates that the nature of the gaze varies with social context; more important, requiring two people to hold their dual gaze beyond the comfort zone of a few seconds amplifies the communication between them to the point where it’s observable in their behavior alone.[1]

“Staring at Strangers,” a recent Australian phenomenon sponsored by The Human Connection’s Igor Kreyman, has attracted thousands of people who come together as strangers, sit down next to someone, and look into their eyes, under a linden tree in Sydney Garden or in a comfortable meeting space in Los Angeles. No one talks until they’ve held each other’s gaze for three minutes; sometimes it leads to a simple thank-you, and other times it leads to an exchange of ideas or personal information. Kreyman honed the technique first as a meditation and then as a theater sports activity, but it was his experience as a facilitator at Kaldor Project 30’s Marina Abramovic: in Residence in 2015 in Sydney that led to the establishment of The Human Connection.

Eye gazing is a meditative practice in Buddhism, Sufism, and Tantra, and psychoanalytic philosophers like Lacan and Zizek explored the idea of “gaze” — the paradox being that the only thing you can never see properly is yourself.[2] But an Australian documentary series, Look Me in the Eye, tests another use of the dual gaze — as a technique for reestablishing relations after a period of estrangement. Seventeen experiments with estranged dyads — feuding siblings, parents and adult children, divorced couples, even a young Sudanese solder facing the man who tortured him — offer compelling testimony that five minutes of staring into the eyes of someone you once cared for, followed by five minutes of solitary reflection, may lead to dramatic emotional breakthroughs. Participants reported feeling a release of long-buried emotions, forgiveness, acceptance, and even the ability to see themselves from the other’s perspective. While not every dyad ended in the immediate resumption of the relationship, some chose to reconnect after a period of reflection; just the fact that both individuals in the dyad were willing to try signaled rapprochement, if not immediate reconciliation. Casting begins soon for the American version of Look Me in the Eye.


[1]Michelle Jarick & Alan Kingstone,[1]

[2] Eckersly, The Guardian, 1/9/2017

Written by Jane Adams Writer, coach and social psychologist

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