I can see it in your eyes, my Grandma Millie said. Let’s find something else to do. How did she know that I, at the tender age of eight, was bored with playing dominoes? I wasn’t interested in building necessarily and setting up a chain reaction with the thin, black blocks was entertaining for only so long. Clearly, my grandma was not only looking, she was also seeing. Directed by ego, looking is taking in and processing surface information through what can be seen (form). Seeing is relying on a higher vantage to interpret the information taken in and to understand the spaces between words and pauses accompanying actions (formless).
It has been said that your eyes are mirrors of your soul, your inmost thoughts and feelings. Your eyes reveal what is true for you. Researchers say that your eyes are the only part of your brain that is directly exposed to the world. Pupils can dilate or constrict, yet you cannot control that process. It is a natural reaction that is dependent on strong feelings or reactions to something that is said or seen. The limbal ring, the dark circle around the colored iris, likewise is affected by strong feelings or reactions. You may also position your eyes in a certain way as you speak. Gazing upward may mean you are thinking or creating mental images. When you glance sideways as you are talking, you may feel uncertain about what you’re saying.
And while your eyes are unconsciously showing your inmost thoughts and feelings, you are also learning about the feelings and thoughts of others. From a noticeably young age, as early as seven months, babies tune into social expressions, conveyed mainly through the eyes and mouths of their parents and those around them.
Through socialization, you learn to read emotions from another’s eyes and surrounding muscles. Examples include eyes that narrow, meaning questioning or doubt about something said or done and eyes that widen, indicating surprise or disbelief. Many other emotions are also revealed. Additional research verifies that when a person is near another like-minded person, tandem dilation or constriction of pupils occurs. This eye language is a way to gather information—a filter—when you’re looking. Keep in mind that the language of the eyes also applies to animals and nature.
Now, more than ever before, being together while wearing masks and remaining physically separate poses many challenges. It is essential and valuable to look at people’s eyes as windows to the soul, whether they peer over masks or are part of a Zoom interaction. What can you learn about their thinking, emotions, and preferences? However, there is more to it. Do you just look, or do you also see?
I have had many opportunities recently to look at eyes and collect information. These first examples are from my extended family. I looked as glee registered in the eyes of my youngest granddaughter (2) as she ran from her papa who was trying to corral her for a diaper change. Or, notice the ease, yet determination, in my middle granddaughter’s eyes as she (nearly 8) sang “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music. Or, watched the enthusiasm and pride emerge from my oldest granddaughter’s eyes as she (11) offered an interpretive reading of an early chapter of her original manuscript, Dueling Diaries. I gathered the information and mentally tucked away the emotions in my heart.
Going deeper—seeing—to interpret what was behind those emotions in running, singing, and speaking, I saw so much more in their eyes. I witnessed the spirit of freedom, the challenge and poise of getting to know your own voice and sharing it, and the gratification of creativity resulting in form. Do you just look or do you also see?
Outside of the family, I recall looking at the unmasked, yet safe-distanced eyes of the candidates of the first 2020 presidential debate. I looked and gathered information from Joe’s eyes: honesty through direct gaze, indicating America has “gotten more divided, sicker, poorer, and more violent” under the current administration; substance rather than force, yet backed by experience and a plan to expand Obamacare; and compassion, focusing on Americans’ guaranteed right to vote in-person or by mail-in ballots.
Donald’s presence offered mixed messages: As he looked sideways, rarely at the audience, his voice was forceful, out-of-control and condescending. His words were sweeping generalizations: “weeks away from having a vaccine,” “schools are teaching students to hate America,” and “I left the Paris Accord because it was a ‘disaster.’” His eyes narrowed as he leaned on the podium and began his flippant ridicule of Hunter Biden being kicked out of the military due to cocaine use, and the later military reference to Joe’s deceased son as a “loser.” I also saw false innocence and contempt in his eyes as he spoke fear-inciting words, refusing to denounce White Supremacists’ actions even when given an opportunity to do so. He also insisted that voters watch for fraud at polling places.
Again, seeing by going deeper, I understood the emotions underlying Joe’s honesty, substance, and compassion. I sensed truth, direction, and capability. In the case of Donald, the underlying concepts that emerged because of his lack of leadership details, accusatory positioning, and consistent bullying allowed me to see only fear, mockery, and lies.
It would have been interesting to be in closer range to observe any changes in the candidates’ pupil size and the size of their limbal rings as they spoke. Clearly, they were not like-minded, but they may have had tandem pupil reactions to the frustrations with each other and the process.
From a higher vantage: Look, yet also see. Deeper understanding helps you to build more stable relationships at all levels. Faces, whether masked or not, are dependable sources of eye language. Look at someone, further seeing that individual. What resonance, insights, or connections do you experience? Interpretation is furthered by intuitive tools. May you sense that there is always something beyond physical appearance that leads to greater awareness of the whole.
© 2020 in the thick of things