Eye to Eye: A Hermeneutic Literature Review of Eye Contact and the Gaze in Psychoanalytically Informed Psychotherapy
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Eye contact is such a natural part of our everyday interactions, that we may take it for granted or dismiss its value. Yet it can be one of the most powerful ways of communicating and can assist or hinder in building relationships. Utilizing the method of literature review within hermeneutic methodology this dissertation looks at how eye contact and the gaze are addressed within literature on psychoanalytically informed psychotherapy. The research suggests that many psychoanalytic theorists, such as Winnicott, Stern and Bowlby have discussed the important role gazing plays within mother-infant dyads, but these findings have not been adequately translated to an understanding of how eye contact and the gaze can facilitate the process of psychotherapy. This dissertation looks at recent findings in neuroscience which suggest that eye contact has a major impact on the developing brain of the baby and hence paying intentional attention to non-verbal embodied communications, such as eye contact, can also play an essential role in facilitating reparative processes in adult psychotherapy relationships. The findings of this study suggest that eye contact occurring between the therapist and the client can be used as an integral part of the careful negotiations in the intersubjective space of closeness and distance, allowing for repair of the self to take place. This requires that psychotherapists come eye to eye not only with the otherness of the other, but also with what the other evokes in us.