Our Town: It’s all in the eyes

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"the eyes are that which understand beauty"

The last time I actually saw someone’s face was in mid-March. Since then it’s been nothing but eyes and blue masks. Since the eyes are the windows to the soul, I ought not to complain. However as a psychoanalyst, I can assure you it isn’t quite as easy to read a person’s mood through the mask. It serves as another line of psychological defense and patients already have plenty of defenses to begin with.
Since we have little choice in the matter let us spend a moment discussing eyes. Song writers have long been mesmerized by eyes. Van Morrison’s sweet “Brown Eyed Girl,” Kim Carnes’ sexy “Bette Davis Eyes,” and the elegiac lament of Bob Dylan’s “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” all refer to the power of a female’s eyes. And we all know who “Old Blue Eyes” refers to.
Business folks also understand the power of the eyes when they use the phrase “don’t blink.” This refers to the power to stare someone down during a negotiation. Sports uses many references to the eyes. “The eye of the tiger” refers to the strength and fortitude of an athlete when in the heat of battle. Mike Tyson used the strategy of constantly staring at his opponents before the bell rang as a way of intimidating them.
I recall having one of my interns meet and interview the famous jockey Angel Cordero and during the interview Cordero remarked, “This kid is going to go places.” When I asked him why, he said, “You can always tell a winner. It’s in the eyes.” This is, of course, a big part of reading body language in animals which great jockey are expert at.
When I was a kid, I would travel to Kentucky with my father as he investigated potential yearling horse purchases. He would always make a comment on the look of alertness in the horse’s eyes as an indicator of health, intelligence and power.
Visual analytics is a new field in sport psychology and a standard procedure used by sport psychologists, including myself, is to teach the athlete to internalize the visualize target they are looking at. This triggers the use of their right cortex, slows down heart rate, enhances performance and at the same time tends to suppress all unnecessary verbal and neurotic dialogue.
Maybe the most important use of the eyes is between mother and infant. “The glint in the mother’s eye” is a key theoretical concept in psychoanalytic literature since it refers to the mother’s natural love of the child and her way of mirroring the child’s achievements. When the child observes this glint from the mother, they are empowered to do more and to feel confident and well loved.
But of all the aspects of vision the finest is in the eyes’ ability to appreciate that which is beautiful. To be able to gaze upon sights like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Red Rock Country of Sedona or “The Lonesome Pines” on the shoreline of the Monterey Peninsula is to find peace and ultimate meaning in life. If you are not inclined to travel, however, just go outside this evening about 20 minutes before the sun sets and look up. You will see shades of pink and red and yellow and orange in the sky and if that does not please your soul, you’re out of luck, my friend.
And so with a wink of the eye let me say: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

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