Seeing Through New Eyes

By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

You are probably familiar with the famous quote attributed to Marcel Proust: "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." The power of "seeing" using new eyes, or reframing, as a therapeutic technique to open doors for new possibilities of thinking and acting, is nothing new to mental health professionals. But when you look again at Proust's quote, however, this time reading the actual quote from the original source you may discover a new layer in the familiar landscape. Proust writes:

The only true voyage, the only bath in the
Fountain of Youth, would be not to visit
strange lands but to possess other eyes,
to see the universe through the eyes of another,
of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes
that each of them sees, that each of them is.

As suggested by the title of Proust's book, The Prisoner, the journey toward a life lived with freedom involves the need to reframe. Sometimes you or your client need to change the conceptual or emotional setting, thereby changing the entire meaning, of an experience that you feel is constricting you or obstructing your view. But Proust furthermore maintains that the process of liberation depends on our kinship with each other; that the way to see and to experience the richness and the grandeur available through "the hundred universes" that exist in us and around us, is by connecting to the other, by looking through the eyes of another.

During these times of divisiveness and polarization you or your client may find yourselves in a position where the only universe you can imagine seeing through the eyes of the "other" looks as if it was a fiery Hell. These are not easy and simple times. But if Proust is right that we cannot be really free when we are pushing the other out of our hearts, when we are marginalizing the other to be outside of our "frame," then we have a fundamental challenge and opportunity we must face. How can we reframe our personal and collective situation going beyond aversive reactivity? How can we see "the hundred universes that each of them sees" without having them being filtered automatically through labels and stereotypes? What would it be like to look through another's eyes as a way of healing our community, our country, and our world?

*Ā Marcel Proust, The Prisoner, Vol. 5, Ch. 2. Originally published in French, in 1923, and first translated into English by C. K. Moncrief

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