Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Sense of Being Stared At

Everybody knows that staring is rude, but we sometimes do it anyway when someone truly fascinates us. But why is staring rude? Why are we unsettled when someone focuses too much attention on us? And why do our hackles raise ever so slightly when we feel a stranger staring at us, particularly in a seedy neighborhood?
And when we do surreptitiously stare at someone, why is it that so often they turn and look around as though they can sense it?
Biologist Rupert Sheldrake conducted scientific studies proving that we can all sense when we're being stared at. Not all the time, but often. Our bodies know it: our skin crawls.
That is because silent, focused attention is what a predator gives to its prey, before the attack.
The sense of being stared at is the sense of being hunted.
If you have spent time in the wild with animals, you may have noticed that if you focus breathlessly on them, the herd scatters, the bear rears up on its hind legs, the bird flits away.
But if you can make the proximity of that creature less important for you, if you can avert your eyes and let its presence be at the periphery of your attention rather than the focus, the animal settles and may accept your presence with equanimity.
Less focus means less threat.
*