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!
219 thoughts on “Who are the People behind these Beautiful Faces?”
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.
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.
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.
I really enjoyed reading this blog. I never knew there was such a condition or that it affects so many people. I also like what you have added here Carmel. I find anything we have that is ‘different’, even if its ‘negative’ such as a serious illness or disease, we get very attached to it. The condition becomes a big part of who we see ourselves as and this presence leaves less room for the real you to be seen or felt.
Letting go of the ‘I can’t’ is extremely liberating and I have been surprised at what I have discovered ‘I can do’ since I have stopped condemning myself.
Wow Carmel thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. I am reminded that there are many reasons that people behave the way we do and when we have conditions around how people respond to us we do not leave any space for understanding what may be going on for them.
I now work in a supermarket cafe where each week there are regulars or there are families who come back. I’ve given myself a challenge: once I recognise a face, and know what their usual menu requirements are, then I ask their name and it sticks. I’m challenging myself to learn one a week, and it feels so lovely to greet people by name. One family of five who came, I didn’t remember any of their faces, but remembered the constellation of two adults and three boys, and the energetic way the boys excitedly ordered this then that and so, when I saw them again a few weeks later, the father had grown a beard and it threw me, but one of the boys’ names was mentioned and I had remembered – family of five, boy named J–. So I was able to joke with them, asked the other two their names, had fun taking their orders and at the end, the father complimented me on the way I had been with the children. I said it’s just about making eye contact and listening to one at a time (which he hadn’t been doing, he’d just got frustrated with them for all shouting at once). What was so lovely was the way they sat quietly eating their meal and tidied up their trays afterwards. Even though I may not remember their faces, when I see them again I know it’s J–, A– and H–. Next challenge is to ask the parents their names! Mum has long hair but her face is nowhere in my memory.
Carmel I have read your wonderful honest blog years ago and re-read it today and I have to admit that I am still impressed about your open-hearted sharing. Since I have read your blog I did not take it personal if people did not know my name as I could never know why – thanks for open up my heart for that.
Thank you Carmel, it is so important to share these stories so we can get a deeper appreciation of other people’s lives. Otherwise we stay in our cosy worlds oblivious to the difficulties others may have with things we take for granted.
Simple things we take for granted. Thank you Carmel not only for informing us in such a direct and honest way but also for a humbling experience.
A great lesson in that whatever another is going through it is never about us. I’m not sure Carmel but I wonder – you must get a variety of responses varying from those who completely understand and take no offence to those who could become deeply offended at not being “recognised”. And always it’s about the deeper connection to ourselves and others.
I never knew that there was a name for this. I must have a mild case because I cannot remember names or faces most of the time. This was very difficult when I was working with primary school children especially those who had very unusual names! But as a lot of the commentors have been saying connection is the most important thing and I agree so I used to joke a bit and have a bit of fun with it.
Thankyou Carmel, this is my second read of your story and another great education for me on Prosopagnosia. One thing I appreciate about this blog is when someone shares themselves fully, (as you have), letting me into their life and giving me an opportunity to understand them at a deeper level. I alway learn from the story shared, but the gold for me is simply connecting at a deeper level with another human being. Thankyou – feels great to know you!
It’s difficult not to shrink when meeting new people. I found when I feel apprehensive I tend not to remember names but when I’m fully present remembering things in general because more attainable .
Thank you Carmel for highlighting this condition, and I can only imagine how difficult it must be for people to live with this. Quite often I will recognise a face and know I have seen a person before but I am thinking to myself I should know their names and eventually have to ask again. Also if I meet someone who is out of uniform and wearing different clothes I find it hard to place where I know them from, so I always say hello and then later find out it’s someone who works at a local shop or is my window cleaner.
Thank you Carmel, it is great to re-read your words. What comes to me is that we see certain things as a failure or fault and then we try to cope with them by making an extra effort and most of all try to fit in/pretend we are just like everybody else. But this prevents us to really get to know each other and takes away our realness, in the sense how our daily lives are for us, and most of all it denies us to simply learn what there is to learn for us.
There is so much that can be expressed when we make eye contact with another, and it is interesting that it is the avoiding of this that can result in such condition as to not remembering someone’s face. Could it be that such condition is asking us to deepen our level of intimacy with ourselves and others around us?
Carmel, thank you for sharing this. I cannot imagine not remembering faces, nor how so very debilitating this would be in living day to day. Yet in what you share, is it possible you see and understand more of the person than many of us? By not remembering faces, but instead taking note of clothing styles, hair styles and ways of movement, do you not see more of the person than those that remember faces, so have no need to observe other things about people, that in fact can support us to understand and honour each person for who they are.
Many of us have problems in remembering the name of a person we have met before and perhaps the truth is we have not truly met them. Serge Benhayon knows the name and person of all the thousands of people he meets and is an inspiration to be open and connect to truly meet another.
I didn’t know there was such a condition that exists. I find when I connect with people and make eye contact upon our first meeting I tend to remember their names more.
” 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.” Beautiful Carmel, when we allow ourselves to open to feeling rather than seeing we ‘see’ a whole lot more.
Thanks Carmel for enlightening us on the condition Prosopagnosia, as I had never heard of it
Such a great reminder that in amongst all those social niceties and greeting protocols there can be much more going on than literally meets the eye. Thank you for your candour on this, Carmel. Much needed in raising awareness and creating a wider understanding.
I love this Carmel; “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.” I have trouble remembering names but am fine with faces. The key is to connect – as you say – rather than go into the ‘mental abyss’ that you describe. Nowadays I confess up front I have forgotten, which makes life much easier….
Thank you Carmel for this personal sharing, it is quite touching. I had never heard about Prosopagnosia before. I noted that your blog was written back in 2012. I would love to know if your condition has improved following your practice of meeting people with true eye contact over the eyes.
What a fascinating read Carmel, I learnt so much and was really interested to read all about ‘Prosopagnosia’.
I love the way you are experimenting, recognising and knowing people by other means, other than their external looks. Reading faces, what a great idea, takes getting to know you to a whole new level.
Hi Carmel, this is a really interesting blog. How beautiful that you can remember how people move as a way of recognising them. I had never heard of this condition before, thank you for sharing.
Another interesting update to expand on my blog here – I’ve recently started a new job in a supermarket cafe and all my colleagues wear hygiene hats. I get used to knowing who they are with their hats on but as soon as they take their hats off, and their hair is down, I’m unsure. This is highlighting that I am still focusing on clothes and hairstyles to identify people instead of truly reading their faces.
I have never heard of the term ‘Prosopagnosia’ so thanks Carmel for explaining what it means for people who suffer from this condition. It would be quite difficult and awkward socially, not to mention isolating. I was interested to read you comment about a possible connection with the degree of eye contact a person uses when they communicate and it has made me more conscious of how fleeting my eye contact sometimes is with others when I am talking with them. I am now questioning what else is happening at these times and can sense that it certainly isn’t on the open, loving side of the ‘communication ledger’. Thank you for broadening my awareness of this situation and for giving me more to reflect on.
Just as an update: I recently attended a masked ball where people were wearing historical costumes, masks and wigs – and no matter how hard I looked, I could not recognise many of the women it was quite unnerving because they were all people I know. I usually recognise mannerisms and body language, but many were adopting the behaviour dictated by the costume so there was nothing familiar I could identify them with, and their hair was hidden so I had no clues seeing them from a distance, but when they spoke, it was sometimes possible to recognise their voice. Looking at the photos I still don’t know who many of them are, and that makes me feel rather sad and somehow lost.
Thank you Carmel for explaining that this exists and what it contains. It again shows me we should never jugde others in the way they relate to us i.e.not recognizing us whilst we have met before. Just stay open and let others in.
Thank you Carmel and Caroline, I had absolutely no concept about face blindness, although there are some people I do not remember. To ‘just stay open and let others in’ and do a deeper reading on what people are actually bringing to every situation, would be building on a strength we all should be working towards. As a soul, my understanding is we all look the same, so as a part of connecting deeper maybe people with prosopagnosia are connecting to who they are without connecting to their sixth sense or soul aspect?
There is now a website for the UK http://www.faceblind.org.uk/ with a quiz you can do to check if you are one of the 2-3% who are affected by face blindness. They are also on Twitter @faceblinduk – neuroscientists around the world are exploring the condition but no-one is looking at the energy side of things – yet. It will be interesting to see what happens when they do.
This was an interesting blog to read Carmel, thank you.I have never heard of that condition. I seems that you are working with this is your true connection with others. I never mind telling people who I am again. So wonderful that you are so open about this and expressing. This supports true connection.
Carmel that’s incredible, I never even new Prosopagnosia existed. You must have heightened other sensors in order to cope, like reading how people move and in turn feeling their energy. Always good to get a reminder never to judge a situation.
Carmel thank you for sharing and explaining your condition, Prosopagnosia. I had no idea that there was such a condition and it is amazing how you have managed to learn and live with it, and still make the best of it.
I too, Like many who have commented have not known of the existence of ‘Prosopagnosia’, I can only imagine how disconcerting it must be at times. Yet what an incredible opportunity to deepen in the true sense and feel of others, to recognise us through our various traits and the energies we bring. Something we all deeply benefit from. Thank you for sharing Carmel.
Thank you Carmel for highlighting ‘Prosopagnosia’ I will never take for granted that moment of instant recognition of when meeting another person. As you share it is so beautiful to look into another’s eyes – connecting in this way feels like we share so much more than the conversation taking place. Allowing another to feel our true essence, once felt never forgotten.
This is a really interesting case I couldn’t imagine not being able to recognise a person’s face. It is interesting how your condition could be related to how well you connect with people and allow your eyes to meet.
Carmel I never knew Prosopagnosia existed. Thank you for making me aware of this. I have in the past have had great, deep connections with people and the next time we met they didn’t acknowledge me and I thought how could you forget the beautiful connection we had and then I go into rejection. Now when this happens I will be more understanding and recall to them how we met as I feel this would be more supportive to our relationship than just going into rejection.
Hi Lindellparlour, yes, we often assume other people are the same as us – I am always amazed that people remember who I am, and embarrassed that I don’t remember who they are. I have often met beautiful people on the healing courses and then forget who they are and probably cause many to feel rejected – yes, it is a great help when people remind me where we met, because then the other factors come into play and I can put the meeting into a context that I do recall.
Carmel don’t feel embarrassed because we don’t get all of you when you are and if people feel rejected then your Prosopagnosia is bringing something up in them. Why are they feeling rejected, you are just being you. 🙂
I have to agree with you Carmel about not recognizing the students. Most of them I only see every six months and some times only annually. We have to be one of the only groups of people that as we age we get thinner and younger looking… its good exercise to put the name with the face and see the amazing transformations.
Thank you Carmel for sharing this great insight into Prosopagnosia and thank you for letting me know if you do not recognise me. I have no problem recognising faces but their names well that’s another story and a work in progress of truly meeting some one and engaging in what the other person is communicating .i.e. listening .
This is a great example of how ridiculous it is to take things personal!
That is so true Felix and sometimes we think other people might take things personally but in reality they often don’t. When we take things personally it closes the doors to love and truth.
That is so interesting, Carmel. We may become offended by someone who never remembers who we are, but to think that 2% of the UK population has this condition is fascinating. We have two pathways in our visual system, one that sees detail (parvocellular) and one that sees the overall picture and senses motion etc (magnocellular) – it would be interesting to explore how people with Prosopagnosia integrate these two systems. I love how you do not ‘beat yourself up’ for not remembering people’s faces, but are patient with yourself – I am sure this helps others be more understanding too.
Thank you Carmel for sharing, and I love the way you shared it, you live with it in such a beautiful way without bashing yourself up for not knowing who you are talking with, and claim that you don’t remember who they are, that is great.
I loved that too Benkt, it takes great courage and claiming to live like this.
Wow, Carmel, this is a new one for me. I didn’t know anything about face-blindness. Thank you for sharing so openly, so honestly. I sometimes struggle with recalling names and the details they have shared with me previously. Reading your sharing, I realise how vulnerable we all are when meeting another, and made me wonder in my case if it was to do with how much I allow myself to actually ‘meet’ another, letting them in. Somewhere deeper than what meets the eyes and the brain cells for a later recall, maybe there’s something that makes it possible for me to access a much bigger memory bank than my little brain encased in a little skull.
Fumiyo I agree with the vulnerability you describe when meeting new people. I have always had difficulty in remembering people’s names. As I learn more about myself I understand that my lack of self-worth played a big part. Why would this person remember my name, it is so insignificant for them that I’d the same with them. There was no connection from the first meeting and it would take quite a few more before the name engraved itself in my brain. So basically I was checking out when meeting new people. Thanks to you and Carmel for bringing this to my consciousness.
I love what you share here Fumiyo and Patricia, as I can relate to that very much as well. It does help to really meet a person and let them into my heart to then also remember their name, it is this extra care to be bothered to really connect.
Thank you Carmel for sharing your story on prosopagnosia. It’s great to have an understanding on something that I had not heard of before. You sharing is also a great reminder of the significance of connecting with others.
Wow great follow on from your eye contact blog Carmel. It really reiterates how crucial it is that we truly connect with others and take time to feel their essence..
Great sharing Carmel, I never heard about this Prosopagnosia and its great to be aware of that it exist. Its beautiful what you shared how you learned to deeper connect with peoples eyes and then start feeling more their features. Thats something I am learning to, to deeper read the person and feeling them more.
I agree Rachel – learning to feel people on a deeper level allows us to feel all that they are and doing this through making connection through allowing them in when you hold their eye contact is beautiful. Thank you for sharing Carmel.
Hey Carmel- awesome blog ! It was really interesting to read a little bit about Prosopagnosia… I had no idea. It’s cool to hear about how other people are living and how they interact with the world, what an eye opener. Brings a lot of understanding and maybe it helps people feel a little less awkward about asking people their names a couple of times. Often I remember the faces and the interactions, yet the names I struggle with a bit.
Carmel, I have never heard of Prosopagnosia before and thus thankyou for sharing your experience how it is for you meeting, and re-meeting people. It also shows me how we are more than just our faces and thus how important it is when I meet others to simply accept them exactly as they are and feel their qualities before anything else. Great blog.
Thank you Carmel for sharing, giving us an understanding on Prosopagnosia which I have to admit, I had not heard of until now. Over the years I have known Carmel, if she did not recognize me and I would remind her she would say very simply and matter of fact ”Oh yes, Caroline”. There was never any criticism or being judgemental on herself but simply an accepting of the condition and this can be felt in her blog. Beautiful.
This was really lovely to read Carmel, and I can feel how there is no frustration or anger about the situation, that you you seem to just work through it with curiosity not criticism, and do not see it as a disability or disadvantage. With this attitude, any issue can bee seen as an opportunity for learning rather than a problem to be solved.
ha it’s like a ‘what comes first? the chicken or he egg?’ scenario with eye contact. I never had thought about it that way before. I can some days be great with eye contact and other days struggle with it and usually on those days i’m trying to hide something or I am bit out of sorts. Really that has to be happening first before I struggle with eye contact.
Thank you Carmel for sharing what it is like for you though because there are people that forget my face and I’m thinking don’t you remember me??
Thank you Carmel, and yes Arieljoymuntelwit, absolutely agree with you. By the way I love the question ‘What comes first’ it actually brings the responsibility back to the reader. We are responsible for our own behaviours. We are actually blaming ‘outside’ possibly more then we know. But deep down we all know it is about connection first. So once this connection is found again.. perhaps.. we recognize faces more easily)
Very bravely honest to write about this Carmel. I became not so good at remembering people names. But lately it has been coming rather naturally to me. I have been more still within myself, and more confident with who I am, so when I meet someone I’m not jumping inside my skin trying to be something for that person. It’s really helped me to remember people and their names. Sometimes I am stunned though, literally because I see something very beautiful In a person, it makes me stop and go wow, people are awesome.
Harryjwhite awesome comment. I find that too- when I’m feeling adequate in myself I’m more likely to concentrate on the other person and so remember their name.
Thank you for sharing something that I had not heard of before Carmel, and it was great to have an understanding of what prospagnosia is and how it affects you.I know when I can’t remember peoples names it is because i have gone into my head and not really made eye contact and met the person. If I stay totally present and connect to the person i can usually remember their names. I know anxiousness plays a part here as I am trying to take in too much of what is going on rather than just meeting the person with every part of me.
Thank you Carmel for expanding my world. Could it be that the ‘Hurdle’ of judging others and forming relationship, and weighting acceptance of them based on how often they are in our lives, has been removed from the equation for you? I can feel that if you stay completely connected to you, the truth of who you are and know that connection to your very core then all you need do is bring that to every interaction and the connection to others will come through that. When something which is taken for granted in life is missing, maybe it offers opportunities in other ways. Thank you for sharing.
I wonder how it is now Carmel, I had not heard of this condition before. It is for me also again a reminder to never take things personally. And to have understanding for the way one’s life is unfolding.
Due to the inspirational work of Serge Benhayon, today I have greater awareness and appreciation for myself and in turn for others. The power of meeting another with your gaze says so much beyond names and identities. Thank-you for sharing Carmel.
This is new for me to hear about too Carmel. It goes to show how much understanding is required with each person we meet.
Thank you Carmel for sharing your story , I had no idea that this was a condition that some people have. I, for a long time felt uncomfortable with people looking into my eyes and I would often lower my eyes to avoid them. Having become more and more comfortable with who I am, I now really enjoy the eye to eye contact. So beautiful.
Thank you for sharing this Carmel, I had no idea. Knowing this helps to bring more understanding to everybody, including to myself.
I had never heard of Prosopagnosia in my life. Had no idea that something like this may happen. I found your discovery amazing of how you use your eyes to avoid feeling and go to a mental abyss. Keep experimenting and discovering about how you are interacting with people. I have the feeling that there is a world to be healed there and an old one.
How beautifully find your way in full expression, Carmel.
Carmel this was extraordinary to read. I have not heard of this condition before and it was utterly fascinating to learn of how you experience life and so beautiful to read how you now choose to not avoid feeling what is going on and really allow yourself to truly see and feel people. Wow, just gorgeous. Thank you for sharing this.
Thank you so much Carmel for your amazing blog. I was not aware about Prosopagnosia – face-blindness. So I really enjoy your openhearted words and I am impressed how you are with people. I always felt seen from you and if you would not remember me this would not be a problem for me because I by myself can’t sometimes remember a persons name.
Wow Carmel, I did not know this existed. I love how openly you share about this. Especially that you learned to really look into someone’s eyes, that is something I do not always do to and it is the most beautiful thing to do. Very inspiring.
Thanks Carmel for sharing your story, I had no idea this condition existed. It is amazing how you are dealing with this and choosing to look deeper into people’s eyes and really connect with them – what a great reminder for all of us.
Carmel thank you so much for sharing this with us. It’s so important that we bring more understanding into the world. Wondering if a face is familiar or not must be challenging and having a moment when you don’t known if you know who that person is would feel quite uncomfortable.
Thank you for allowing your eyes to see what is there. We can all be inspired by this Carmel.
I can really feel how hard it must be for you. Keep up just being who you are 🙂
Thanks Carmel for raising our awareness of this condition. The importance of eye contact and truly connecting with the other person, is relevant to everyone.
I also had not heard of Prosopagnosia before. Great that you found other ways to recognise people especially by noticing the way they walk, looking into their eyes and feeling from the heart the persons essence. Thank you for sharing this.
I have never heard of Prosopagnosia before, so thank you for sharing this and raising my awareness! I sometimes have trouble remembering names and circumstances where I met someone, but faces – it never occurred to me that this could be a problem.
So great to know about this!
We do often rely on what someone looks like to remember them rather than how they feel. And it is true that I have often noticed that esoteric students, can so dramatically change in a few months, both physically and also how they feel to be around and that I may not immediately recognise them. I know my own physicality and energy I put out has altered a lot in the last 3 years in particular. Looking into someones eyes, connecting and sharing myself openly does build a connection that remains. Interesting blog on connection.
Carmel I had no idea that “Prosopagnosia” existed. I’ve always had problems with names but faces are what I find much simpler to remember. It makes you realise that there are so many different things that people have to deal with on a daily basis – that I and others take for granted. Thank you.
An inspiring blog that helps to bring understanding to the unknown and ‘hidden’ difficulties people can have – especially if not spoken about! Thank you Carmel, for ‘opening my eyes’!
Thank you Carmel, for sharing so openly, your journey of living with Prosopagnosia. I have never heard of this condition.
Hi Carmel, this has been an interesting read of a subject that I had very little awareness of and what stands out for me is the part about eye contact and getting anxiousness. It makes sense, the calmer we are within ourselves, the more open we are when we meet people.
Dear Carmel, I had no idea such a condition existed or that is was even a condition as it is very common to forget people’s names and faces. I feel that taking the time to observe people (without staring of course) helps to remember their faces. When we start talking to them and know their name and truly connect to them then it is easier to remember this connection. Letting people in springs to mind.
Hi Carmel, this is an utterly amazing story and insight. Why? Well because this is something I knew nothing about. Just to think that this is a “thing” and It has never been brought to my attention and makes me think of all the other “things” out there that are stopping people from expressing in their fullness. What resonates with me is Rebecca’s first comment about the level of understanding that can be brought to something like this. The truth is people are vulnerable. Full stop. And so if we took the care and understanding as you have displayed, to be honest, to find out more, and to embrace all no matter what’s going on in the same way, then we really are approaching humanity without judgement and that is critical for everyone moving forward together. Amazing.
Wow, this really speaks clearly to me as a fellow “prospagnosic”, and glad to hear you had such a positive experience with exploring eye contact. I’m off to a five day residential course next week, so now taking rather a deep breath when I think about it, but will take heed of your experiences and really endeavour to ‘meet’ people.
Thank you to giving voice to what life is like with prosopagnosia – and wonderful to read all the interest from your fellow bloggers and followers – a new world to me, and very fascinating..
Hi Hazel, thank you for your comment, it is lovely to hear from a fellow faceblind person. For me, learning how to truly meet people is an ever-evolving process. Making true eye contact and observing how that feels in my body is just the start; getting myself and my mental clutter out of the way is the next step; then who knows what happens after that when I can let myself be seen in full and truly let them in!
I have just attended the Universal Medicine Retreat in Lennox Head, Australia, an interactive residential event with 320 fellow students and it has been an interesting challenge – many I know by name but not sight – many I have met before and they remember me but I hadn’t a clue who they were, and some I know well. It really brought home to me the importance of truly feeling their essence when we meet, and not getting into the whole mental anxiety about “Will I remember them? Who are they?” etc. It was very dis-orientating and felt truly distressing at times, especially when I’ve mentally beaten myself up for not remembering, but is helping me to evolve in the way I meet people – not to be in my head, but in my heart. To open my heart up to feeling who they truly are. Carmel Reid, Somerset UK
I was reading this comment of yours Carmel… its a really honest account of how it makes you feel. But I wondered how would it be if you simply opened up to other people about the fact you find it difficult. I guess that is the purpose of this blog! And what it has done for me is give me a greater understanding of you and what might be going on. Thank you for your honesty.
I thought the observation of eye contact was interesting. I acquired prosopagnosia and notice that I watch people’s eyes more now than ever before. In their eyes, I often feel I can find a key as to whether we have previously met. Depending on how their eyes move when we first see each other, I can often feel as to whether we are passing strangers or people who have had time to meet before.
Hi Tara, I thought it was beautiful how you have now fond a key as to whether you have met a person before or if the person is a ‘passing stranger’ by looking into their eyes and the feeling that develops as a result of how their eyes move. No wonder the saying: Our eyes are the windows to our soul. I had a look at your blog and I enjoyed the story of the two men in a hospital room. It is so true that sometimes (if not all of the times :)) our heart will ‘see’ more than our eyes.
Thank you for sharing.
Thank you Carmel… for raising awareness on this condition which is relatively unknown. I had watched a 60 Minutes program (Face Blindness: When everyone is a stranger) on it last northern summer when I was in The States. YOUR POST takes it one step deeper with the contemplation of the value of eye contact. The point about eye contact is of value for EVERYONE – even those of us who do not suffer from face blindness.
Thank you Carmel for sharing yourself and your condition with such honesty. I also have never heard of this. It has reminded me to be okay to ask someone their name if I forget who they are. I recently attended an Expression retreat, that I went from not be able to look into someone’s eyes, without darting away to looking deeply into their eyes and allowing them to look deeply into mine. It was amazing and so much fun.
Thank you so much Carmel for this open sharing and greater understanding of a condition I had never heard of and I have been in the health industry for years. This let me feel again how beautiful it is to really look into someone’s eyes and really feel them and their inner beauty. So often I would not open fully to another and let myself feel them and it felt like something essential was missing. I have loved feeling how open you have become in expressing and living your inner beauty .
I loved this post – thanks a lot Carmel. I have this problem quite a bit and think it comes from a deep rooted anxiety – where I am so busy worrying about me that I am not really conscious of you and so don’t really look at you or concentrate on you. Of course, meeting new people makes me even more anxious so it’s worse 😉 I didn’t know it had a name!
Hi Jean – oh yes, I so recognise that!!!! 😮
Thank you Carmel it was so interesting to read what you are discovering… it is great to really be with a person when you meet them… I keep practising with everyone I meet instead of wanting to be elsewhere – its such fun.
I read up about Prosopagnosia to see if it would help me understand why this condition might occur in us. I kept asking myself: why wouldn’t somebody be able to remember a face, not arm, not hair and not t-shirt, but face? I have also found it fascinating that there are (now) billions of faces and no two are the same! I have had a condition on my face over a period of 17 years and I learnt a lot about my own face and what it does/can reflect. I have also learnt that the face is more honest than any mouth! Our faces do tell stories, in fact I think it is fair to say that our autobiographies are written all over our faces. And then we have various ‘masks’ on our faces. It is sometimes hard to tell which face is real and which one is not.
“God has given you one face, and you make yourself another”. ~William Shakespeare
As you can probably tell your article has given me much material for pondering… no conclusions (yet) 🙂
Sounds like a book in the making, Dragana. I love the quote from William Shakespeare, “God has given you one face, and you make yourself another” – how true. and when we look into any one of the seven billion faces on this planet, can we allow ourselves to see God?
Your honesty Carmel is very touching, I appreciate all you have shared with us, I was not aware such a condition existed before. I do not understand all you go through but I felt to share I can have trouble remembering peoples names and for me it feels like I make external things (which I remember readily) more important than people and like you, I feel there is a pulling away from others and not allowing myself to connect them, there is also an anxiety in me when saying hello to someone and worrying if I have remembered their name correctly or if I have completely forgotten. I love how you cut your anxiety by just being upfront and asking them if you know them, very awesome…
Hi Toni – yes, I agree – that moment’s anxiety and you hold back and just say a bland “Hi” rather than risk getting it wrong. I love it when people say hello to me with my name. I called a guy at work by the wrong name for three months until he finally corrected me – it was rather funny. It feels so lovely connecting with a name, and I guess we can all be playful with ourselves and each other while we’re learning who we all are!
Carmel, thank you for sharing this. I had no idea such a condition existed or that it was so common. What you say about it maybe being linked to only having the briefest eye contact feels right to me. It would seem to be a very simple and low cost thing to research too. You can ask me my name as often as you like!!
This is so interesting! Thanks so much for sharing this – it is just a more ‘extreme’ version of behaviour I have noticed in myself when faced with feeling a very full-on energy – the feeling of wanting to cut-off because it is not handleable instead of being ultra still and present and keeping my heart and observation fully open. I am hugely better at it now and hardly ever do it any more, but I can see so clearly now what it would have led to. Thanks so much Carmel!
Thank you Carmel, that was really interesting. I can remember faces and what people feel like but used to have terrible problems remembering names. I would even at times forget names of people I have known well for years.
I am slowly getting better at remembering names since I now take a moment to more deeply connect to someone when I meet them and then if possible repeat their name in the conversation at least once. I have also started saying hello followed by name rather than just hello when I meet people. The biggest thing is for me to take the time to be present at each meeting.
Awesome Nicola, you’ve shared a great point. It is to be fully present with ourselves and the person we meet first. Then next time we meet them again it often feels like no time has passed from the first meeting to the second. It’s like a continuation of connection from where you left off.
Very true Chan and yet at times I still forget names even though I feel a deep connection to the person. Last week for a few moments I forget the name of someone I am very close to and have been speaking to several times a day for the last few months – it is very strange!
Your story touched me deeply with the honesty, strenght, humbleness. Your growth in love is felt behind the words. Thank you Carmel. BTW, I recently found out that when you really look into the eyes of others that it IS quite different. Like I really, truly meet them – and myself.
Thank you for bringing Prosopagnosia to my attention, Carmel. I had idea that it even existed and boy would it be challenging to live with. 2% seems a small percentage until you think of how large the population is that it applies to.
I’m sure we will happily supply our names whenever we meet you, now we have an understanding of all this, Carmel.
Well said Judy, yes, I happily supply my name whenever I meet Carmel. I had no idea, but can relate to it for sure.
That’s amazing Carmel and its true, looking into people’s eyes when we meet is not often done. And isn’t it amazing when we do, we can look deep into their soul and see all their beauty. And yes you do look and feel amazing now, as you have expressed your awesome love to yourself and others, so the real and beautiful Carmel has emerged. Thank you.
Thank you Carmel for being so open about remembering faces, I had never heard of Prosopagnosia before. Thank you for bringing it to our awareness. Carmel I could never be offended by your wonderful presence.
Thank you for sharing as I am the same but with people’s names. I usually remember a face but names escape me but with what you have shared I understand now that it perhaps is with how I connect with people am au truly connecting with them meeting them. Thank you Carmel.
I too am one of those people who can remember faces even if I have not seen them for a very long time. I find that a face is more than a face, it is a collection of features that tells a story and it is impossible for me to forget.
Thank you for sharing this Carmel. This is the first time I have heard of Prosopagnosia.
Looking forwards to seeing you again soon and being playful as we look directly and deeply at each other again. Love Sx
Thanks so much for sharing. I didn’t know a lot about this condition before, but now I feel like I understand it a lot better. What a huge challenge for you every single day and how great that you are able to finds ways, that feel right to you, to meet the challenge. xx
Thank you for sharing and educating me! I have never heard of Prosopagnosia – face-blindness before.
Wow Carmel, thank you for this article. What struck me is the myriad of different ways in which we may have moved away from our true connection to ourselves and made me feel more truly my own lack of true expression in some circumstances. How healing to have so many opportunities now to really see the beauty in others and hence yourself. Thanks again.
Thanks for sharing your experiences… I really really felt what you wrote about your willingness to “see what is there” in anothers eyes… very powerful… thank you.
Our willingness to see and truly connect with people is key to meeting anyone. When we feel nervous, shy, go into comparison or judgment blocks our connection with the person so next time we see them again often we don’t remember them because we didn’t truly connect in the first place.
Wow Carmel, I had no idea of this… I forget names and that makes me feel like I can’t engage sometimes as I am embarrassed that I have forgotten the person’s name… but I can’t imagine how difficult it would be not to remember faces… thank you for sharing… what an amazing understanding you are coming to with it.
Carmel and Rebecca, I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to read what you have both written. I am the opposite of you Carmel. I recall people’s faces (um …their teeth too!!!)…it has been their names that defy me.
This has been under my self-study microscope.The things that I have noticed about myself are:
1. I kind of curl up when I first meet people. No one would notice…I don’t hide in the corner or behind someone’s legs! But there is a little shrink inside. I could call it shyness I guess.
2. I panic a little…what if I cannot remember their name next time?? Well that really helps …. not.
3.When I see people I immediately berate myself if their name has not popped into my head in a nanosecond. Also not helpful.
4. I get embarrassed if they know my name and I don’t know theirs.
Embarrassent is the most destructive emotion, so close to shame that they must be brothers, if not cousins! It cripples us and immediately takes to warmth, connection, and openness with an axe. I have been observing this closely in myself and getting bolder at saying “I have forgotten your name” but holding warm eye contact with the person all of the time, and saying (to myself) “go away embarrassment, connection is more important than anything else”. I am willing to appear imperfect, silly even as I am learning people love to be looked at with eyes that are connected to an open heart.
Since taking that approach a strange thing has happened, my name recall is improving.
My role model in this has been Serge Benhayon, who, among the multitude of extraordinary abilities remembers everyone’s name. He is so natural in this. No silly tricks, he just connects and really meets people…no internal shrinking.
It is beautiful to make meeting about the people, and not be so focussed on names and remembering. And the greatest paradox is that the names and the recall become natural and so simple.
Just to add to your comment about Serge, it’s not just that he remembers hundreds of people’s names, but that he can also remember practically their entire personal history as well. From all the conversations and people that regularly attend his workshops it is incredible, unbelievable. When I asked him about it he explained it just comes from being absolutely present with each and every conversation… another benefit of his extraordinary livingness.
Hi Rachel, thank you for your comment, I agree, shame and embarrassment are the two emotions I feel most and yes, they do cripple us and destroy warmth, connection, and openness. Your words inspire me to open up and connect more with people and to make every meeting less about me and my anxiousness and completely about them, observing them with openness and no judgement.
Rachel I recognise myself in this portrait. The embarrassment used to be excruciating when unable to name someone who evidently knew me. By connecting more with people I find it is easier to remember things about them and I just say it upfront: I have forgotten your name and get on with it.
Hi Rachel, thank you for sharing your experiences of the internal recoil and shame, I agree and have experienced the same. And yes, when I relax, the names do come. I am now in a job where the same people come back every day or once a week, and I am beginning to recognise them as familiar, so the smile we exchange feels very different from the polite smile I use with someone I perceive as a stranger. That is concerning – why I can’t I have the same open smile with everybody? Recognising the essence of a fellow human being, equal to all other human beings, whether I know them or not. Underneath our polite exterior, we do know everybody for we are indeed all one, it’s our mental activity, our thinking that gets in the way.
This blog and comment thread is amazing! I relate, I have not always been good with names but I can remember faces. What I find very exposing is that it is not just a potential lack of full presence in these situations that prevents me from fully remembering them but also a protective guard, a force field that actually is keeping them out and hence.. I have had trouble remembering because I simply didn’t want to remember and perhaps have not always cared in some cases if I am fully honest
Some of it is protection too Joshua. In protection we shut down our senses. We cannot hear clearly, nor register what we have heard. Everything bounces off our surface like arrow off armour. Problem is that a persons name is not an arrow, and we don’t have to wear armour 24/7…if ever at all.
Absolutely Rachel. There is something terribly wrong with the world today if we use a persons name like are arrow
Or defend ourselves against it as though it is.
I love your comment Rachel. By feeling embarassed stops us being open to the other person for sure. I often remember people’s faces and names easier when I am not trying but connection. Another thing I tend to do when I meet someone is associate something I already know from another person. Like this person has the same name as my sister or brother etc. So I link their name to people that are already in my life.