Who are the People behind these Beautiful Faces?

by Carmel Reid, Somerset, UK

I recently went to a gathering in London for people with Prosopagnosia – face-blindness. It is something that is estimated to affect around 2% of the UK population.

These are people who can’t remember faces – not names, but faces. Some can’t recognise their own family – children, husband, and friends – in some cases even themselves in a mirror. It was awesome hearing their stories and many of them echoed my own.

I have always had trouble recognising faces; I can remember hair, glasses, beards, clothes, accessories, and movement, but not the main features of the face.

Unfortunately, people change their clothes and can cut or colour their hair, and then I don’t recognise them. In my previous work as a corporate trainer I could spend a whole day teaching a group, but as soon as they got up and moved around to get a cup of coffee, I would forget who they were, even if they just put their jacket on!

It’s been a real challenge for me in my current work, too. I work at a busy supermarket in a local holiday village, and if a person comes to my till and says “Hello Again”, only then do I know they’ve been there before. It’s taken me months to get to know the faces of my colleagues, and as for Senior Management, who I don’t see very often, well, I really struggle. The smart suit is usually a clue, but I’m not always sure of exactly which one they are and hesitate to engage with them.

My case is not as severe as many of the people I met at the Prosopagnosia gathering, since I can eventually learn who people are when I meet them in four or five different situations. I still don’t remember the face, but getting to know what clothes they wear, the different ways they wear their hair, and most importantly, the way they move, really helps. I’ve stopped having those awful conversations where we keep talking and eventually I work out who people are, because sometimes I’d get it wrong and that would cause more problems and embarrassment. Nowadays, if I feel that I should know them, I usually ask their name up front and then I’m OK.

One of the scientific observations mentioned at the meeting is that people with prosopagnosia tend to avoid eye contact. My question would be, which came first? I always thought I was good at eye contact but now I’m observing my interactions more, I’m learning that actually, my eye contact is very brief. It’s as if I feel something very strong whenever I meet someone, and back off from it.

In an exercise during one of Serge Benhayon’s recent presentations, I sat looking directly at another person for several minutes. It was lovely – I could see what a wonderful colour her eyes were, and began to notice the features of her face. Somehow I felt ‘safe’ and it was fun.

I can’t answer for anyone else who has this problem as to why they don’t recognise faces, but I’m experimenting for myself now, when I meet someone, to allow my eyes to see what’s there instead of going into some kind of mental abyss where I am more concerned to avoid feeling whatever is going on, instead of allowing myself to feel the person as well as see them.

My biggest challenge at the moment is with fellow Universal Medicine students, especially the women. As they become more and more beautiful, their faces change. Their way of dressing and styling their hair becomes such an expression of their inner beauty, and there’s such an inner glow, that when I meet someone I don’t see very often, I don’t recognise them and have to ask their name again and again. They tell me with either surprise or patience, but I’m not sure they fully understand what’s going on.

It’s wonderful to see it, and I know I have changed as well, because people often comment on how great I look; but perhaps, if you see me in the street, and I hesitate, or worse, I ignore you, please don’t be offended, simply remind me who you are, and then I’ll remember everything I know about you!

179 thoughts on “Who are the People behind these Beautiful Faces?

  1. Something I have realised recently is how attached I am to the ‘I can’t remember faces’ identity. Rather like people who damn themselves forever by saying ‘I’m rubbish at spelling/maths’, we look at our disabilities as something we are, rather than seeing them as the result of our choices. We are so much more than that. I see a man every week who has had difficulty walking all his life, due to a problem with his legs. But I don’t see him as a cripple, I see his smiling face, his cheerful and good-humoured manner, I love seeing him, because his presence lights up my life. I have allowed my inability to remember faces to destroy my confidence in some situations, used it as an excuse to not sit with colleagues in the work breaks, shut down when I meet new people. What I know for a fact that I need to do is get better at reading everyone I meet, for it’s the energy that matters. When I let go of the ‘I can’t’ the ‘I can’ comes much more easily.

    1. Changing the focus from ‘I can’t” / ‘why aren’t I able to do xyz?’/ ‘why do I keep choosing this’ to ‘I can’/Am I able to..?/ what amazing choices am I already making? totally changes our relationship with ourselves and others. The more aware I am of my thoughts the more I see how deeply ingrained the negative thought patterns have been – simply because I’ve allowed them to continue unchecked, for years. Becoming more aware of my body, I’ve felt how abusive these thoughts are. They feel almost comforting because I’ve allowed them in for so long that I’ve barely noticed them – they’ve become part of my internal furniture, however ugly. But now that I can feel how harming they are to my body, it’s easier to say no to them, and to not just re-arrange the furniture but have a good clear out.

    2. I can relate to this as when we identify with a disability the identity can sometimes be more crippling than the actual condition! Since being labelled as ADHD, Dyslexic and that I’d not even reach high school for years my self-esteem was very low whenever it came to writing or spelling. Like you I’ve been learning to let go of the ‘I can’t’ and these days I write prolifically.

  2. This is so interesting Carmel. I had no idea that a ‘disability’ like not recognising faces even existed. It would be wonderful to know how you are progressing with it after making the choice to connect to people and observe their faces deeply when meeting them.

  3. I had an experience at work recently when I was on the checkout and didn’t recognise a colleague from the cafe where I work the rest of the week. She wasn’t wearing the hat and she was wearing glasses, so she looked different, and she was out of context, but I was puzzled because her voice was uncannily like the colleague I knew, so I asked her if she was related! Fortunately we had a laugh about it, and that’s how it needs to be – I find it debilitating sometimes, because I love knowing who people are and using their name, and if I’m not careful I can make myself feel less because of the uncertainty, but accepting that it is simply an ‘imperfection’ and not the whole of me being a disaster area, is going a long way towards minimising its effects on my confidence.

  4. Fascinating sharing Carmel! Adding to the eye contact question, the eagle eye to study movement is puzzling. The fact that this is the focus and not the face features (which you can see as you shared), makes me wonder whether this choice of where to focus on is a reflection of deep mistrust as in studying movement to be ready in case a defense is needed.

    1. That is an interesting question, Eduardo, I’m not sure if I ‘defend’ myself by watching body language, although it certainly enables me to read people. When you are very short sighted it is easier to see a whole body than facial features, but then I could ask what led to my being born so short sighted in this lifetime, and what choices I may have made to not see truth. Either way, it presents a perfect opportunity to develop my natural clairsentience and FEEL people…

      1. Thank you Carmel for allowing yourself to accept what we can learn both from but also in the experience of this condition without hardness and self-judgement, including the opportunity to not just focus on what we can see but to increase our awareness to feel everything.

  5. Thanks for sharing this Carmel, I didn’t know that this was something that affected people but then realise that sometimes mildly happens with me. When reading the part about making eye contact I realised how much I will sometimes avoid much eye contact and with this not fully appreciate and fully connect with, feel and read the person I am with.

  6. I have never heard of this before! That is why it is so important to share information about different disabilities so we have a deeper and more loving understanding of what people with disabilities are experiencing.

  7. Thanks for sharing this Carmel – I had heard of Agnosia but not Prosopagnosia. What I love about your evolution here is that it involves a much deeper connection with the people you meet when commonly such meetings can be rather superficial. To engage every sense in the process of meeting another, including how and what we feel brings so much more to that encounter and it seems to me, offers the opportunity to know that person on a much truer and deeper level. I also feel the power there is in eye contact in a way that truly lets people in. This can feel intimate but perhaps we shouldn’t shy away from intimacy. Perhaps what is there to be discovered in another person is in truth very beautiful.

  8. You may not always remember people’s beautiful faces Carmel but feeling and remembering anothers beautiful quality is equally if not more important.

  9. The more we share about ourselves the more we can offer others something that perhaps they have never heard of eg.Prosopagnosia which I had not come across before. The more I share and live transparency with nothing to hide, the freer I feel with an increased amount of joy embodied.

  10. Somehow we have been led to believe that it is important to remember people and to not remember is insulting. This means that part of our self worth, our importance, is tied up with another recognising how important we are. This is certainly giving our power away. How much more honouring it is to be met in that moment, whether there is any recognition of past moments or not. How lovely to be explored in that moment, without recognition of the baggage we once carried.

  11. Having not heard of Prosopagnosia, I found this a remarkable read and the most curious of conditions. I especially love that you have chosen to experiment with this through eye contact to support yourself deeply and have allowed yourself to both feel and see another like never before…. It is amazing that you are observing with all your senses to override the effect of the condition and ultimately meet the people for all they are even if it takes a little while to recognize who they are.

  12. I love the simple, honest and clear way you have explained this Carmel. There’s such an innocence, acceptance and straightforwardness about your writing that supports a deepening of understanding for those reading.

  13. Since writing this blog I have met many people who can’t remember faces or names and sometimes both. It does feel good when someone remembers our name but, as several have written above, it is so much more important to feel truly met in that moment for everything that is happening in that moment.

  14. I love your observation that people are more likely change their look than their movements. Yes it is so easy to change what we wear, our hair and colors – but how we move is mostly the same. Here lies the key why we so often do not get rid of old behaviors which do not serve us well: we may change our look, setting or surroundings – but not the way we move through life. And thats the key.
    So sorry if that brings you again in trouble Carmel, but I like to encourage all to bring a change into our movements as well.

    1. This is true, Sandra, in the past when I have worked with people to help them develop confidence in themselves, it has been amazing to learn how the simple gesture of straightening your spine enables us to feel more confident. And in my own body, I tend to slump when I am not conscious of how I am sitting and when I sit up straight it clears my head, in fact, clears my whole body.

      1. Yeay Carmel! I am just on an exercise program that includes some stretching for the spine and at the end I do some circles with my arms and stretch my spine a bit to the back while looking up. After that I feel a bit higher in length 🙂 and more connected to my authority and joy. I find myself more deeply connected to my body and in the feeling of ‘ok life – whats next?!’ – and I love it.

  15. I’ve often marvelled and the fact and questioned if a had a ‘gift’ for reading faces. I always seem to be able to recognise actors in their different characters across different movies, even with age. For me, it’s their eyes that give it away. I love how you are exploring this for yourself Carmel.

  16. Holy moly Carmel… I recall reading this blog a few years ago, and being struck by the fact that this is your experience. To read of this strikes me deeply, at just how readily we can judge another for their behaviour – when we may not have the slightest understanding of what is truly going on for them.
    In a society plagued with many unseen conditions, inclusive of the alarming rates of chronic lower back pain for example, we are all called to be more tender and understanding of one another, and willing to go beyond the surface of how we expect another to be. This was deeply worthy of a re-read, and you are one amazing lady of greatness of heart Carmel – connecting with so many people in your life and living ‘undeterred’ by the facial recognition situation, even though it mustn’t always be easy… Clearly, connection is what comes first and foremost to you. Love it.

    1. Hi Victoria, funny you mention connection, I have sometimes come across two people, usually women, who have such similar energy as well as similar hair styles and similar ages, that I have difficulty telling which one is which. The same with two brothers I knew – if I saw them together then it was easy because one was older and taller, but individually I was never sure which of the two it was.I’m sure people think I’m weird, and if I can let go of the ‘what do people think of me’ self-focus and simply respond to their energy, then we are in connection and it doesn’t matter what their name is.

      1. Beautifully said Carmel – it is this that matters first and foremost by far. I’m reminded of when I forget someone’s name – does this really matter? Because I most definitely know the person before me, and so much about them that is way beyond a name…

  17. This is such a wonderfully honest sharing about a condition that I actually didn’t know anything about until a few years ago. Being someone who doesn’t forget a face but often forgets names, I can imagine how challenging it must be to live in the world where as you say, people are changing the way they look on a regular basis. I used to be one who struggled to make eye contact but these days I realise how much of a person I miss out on when I don’t take the time to look into their beautiful and very expressive eyes.

  18. I’ve just moved to another country where I know a lot of people so I have an existing database to build on. I am getting more and more confident at saying ‘have we met before?’ but I did embarrass myself at an event by asking someone their name when I’d only spoken to them an hour before. Facebook has been a blessing for me, as long as they post their own photo on their profile and not their kids or dog, I can check what people look like, but I’m still not really connecting with people, and that is for me to work on.

  19. Your sharing Carmel really highlights how we should never judge another or think ill of them for things they may do, in this case not remembering us, for there may often be more going on than meets the eye. And as you say yourself, the opportunity in this condition is for you to really open up to people and read them, use your other senses, particularly that sixth one to understand who you are meeting. And I guess whether we have prosopagnosia or not, this is a rather special thing we can all do.

  20. Opening up to feeling energy and reading people and situations is a skill we are not taught in school, and only parents who are already aware will encourage their children to do so. Our clairsentience is our greatest protection because if we sense, we know to go or not to go wherever, or to talk/not talk to a particular stranger. The knowing is instant, there is no dilemma, and we can act according to what we sense.

    1. Great point Carmel that it’s our awareness that is our greatest protection: when we stay aware and read, we’re present and in the moment and able to respond appropriately. It’s when we’re not wanting to feel that we withdraw and shut down, which doesn’t serve anyone or the situation.

  21. It’s an interesting dis-ease and the possible dis-harmony it creates with others when you do not acknowledge them. It’s great to be aware of this and all the more to honour that space between others by truly connecting to them and receive in full all they live, and have lived. Like you say Carmel there is more than their face to connect to.

  22. The worst thing for me is when people change their hairstyle or hair colour – and greet me with the most amazing friendly smile – if I am seeing them out of context, or even in a different country – I may be trying to scan my database for that place or that country and think… who are they? Then, suddenly they move or speak in a way that is familiar and I realise who they are. Fortunately my openness is supporting me so that they don’t feel rejected, and I have to be careful to stop myself feeling stupid, but I usually allow myself time for recognition – waiting to see what they speak about, or if any familiar body language signs come up. It’s quite tricky when someone has obviously had an instant recognition of you and you take longer to recognise them. I hadn’t realised before that I have a database of different contexts…

  23. Conscious presence in ourselves, being present with who we are with, and what we are doing asks us to be willing to be present with whatever is there. Sometimes it might not be so pleasant, or sometimes it might be so loving and wise we don’t want to see it as it is asking us to be that ourselves. Either way through connection to ourself we will evolve.

  24. Taking stock and appreciating the choices we have made no matter how small they are, allow us to discover and accept the true beauty within and the way we are to live heaven on earth.

  25. I have worked in early learning centres and child minding services my entire life. Many of the children I have cared for have now become adults or parents themselves. When I have crossed paths with them many years later it is never the names that I will remember but their eyes. Our bodies change, we get older but the marker of the quality which we live is presented with our eyes which stands still over time.

  26. Thank you for sharing Carmel, I am always amazed how Serge Benhayon remembers everyone’s names at events, and we are talking in the hundreds of people at some of the events.

  27. I never knew there was such a thing and so I’ve learnt something today. It must be very disturbing for something like this to happen, especially in such a short space of time. I can only imagine and try to understand how it must be for people with this condition. I am seeing it brings me more understanding for people as well because you just never know what is truly going on for everyone and a lot of the time you take it personally when in fact it’s clearly not. The next time someone doesn’t remember someones face I won’t walk into judgement but be more understanding and respectful, you just never know where and what some of us have seen and been through. After all we are here to truly support each other and not cut each other down at every turn.

  28. Carmel you have changed so much over the years I have known you – do you recognise yourself in the mirror now that you can look into your eyes and know who you are?

  29. This is such a fascinating blog. I had no idea this condition existed until I read this blog.This is just another reason why we should never ever take things personally.

  30. What I love about this blog Carmel is that you share a beautiful message, that would deepen the way we meet and connect with each other if we put it into practice. When we are with another person do we allow ourselves to be open to feel and receive who they are, or are we looking out at their physicality and mentally assessing and qualifying what it is we are seeing. There is so much more to us that our physicality and what you have shared here highlights how valuable it is to connect to the quality of being with another, be present with who they, as regardless of the physical changes we go through we do remember the quality of being we have come to know and the loving connections we have developed.

  31. I don’t think that I have Prosopagnosia but nevertheless I often feel that I have talked to someone a while back but cannot remember their name or much else about the conversation. This used to be the source of a fair amount of embarrassment but I have learned just to be honest and say sorry I have forgotten your name and there is nothing embarrassing about it at all, it was all in my head.

  32. Carmel, you may not recognise a person’s face but you certainly recognise their essence and that is what is important.

  33. It’s really beautiful when disabilities are shared in this way from a place of acceptance and understanding. As apposed to hurt or defensiveness. Accepting that we can’t do something as well as others doesn’t mean we are less and yet sadly this is how disabilities can be related to. I may not have a major disability that affects my day to day life but that doesn’t make me better than another.

  34. The process of connecting with someone else can sometimes be a bit confronting, as who they are brings with them a potential offering for us. With that we may be open, or hesitant, or possibly closed. If we have met them before we may have issues from the past. So there is much more going on than remembering their name and knowing that makes the ability to connect much simpler.

  35. How often do we really see people for who they are? Not by the way they look, but in their true essence? And we do meet someone for the very first time but feel certain that we have met each other before. Feeling of connection, rather than recognition feels more enriching.

  36. What an honest blog Carmel, thank you for sharing this.. To get more understanding of what might occur within another when it comes down to recognizing faces, people. To not judge but simply ask and be open to another – no matter the background or what.

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