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!