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  • Sarah Menzies

Adjust your Gaze

Recently Keira Knightley has been in the press discussing her aversion to sex scenes specifically with male directors. One of the things she said really struck a chord with me


"I feel very uncomfortable now trying to portray the male gaze.


It is so simplistic, but a perfect way of describing how someone’s view of an event can change the dynamic. Of course, a male director will view sex in a male way, and we cannot expect that this will always be with the strongest moral compass.



It made me question how we view things in our own worlds as, unlike Keira, no-one is directing my story. I remember reading an article regarding the human eye. It is so complex and takes in so much data that our brains simply cannot contain it all. By necessity, large points of what we see, what our gaze rests upon, is immediately discarded.



There have been numerous psychology experiments into eyewitness testimonies. Our memory does not work in the same way that a film plays back, but rather we remember things in a way that makes most sense to us. We frame our memories from our own experiences. Stress causes us to remember in different ways, and what we focus on can impact on our memories. For instance, in a crime where a weapon is involved, it is not unusual for a witness to be able to describe the weapon in much more detail than the person holding it.



So, what we concentrate on, what we put our actual focus on, can eschew how we see a situation and what we remember about it. If a male director can create a sex scene that appeal more to men, so we can create scenes in our life that fit our ideal of sadness or happiness. We can decide to look on a situation in a certain way, to find the more positive angle. That way we can stop the negative thoughts from pulling us down. As that is exactly what negative thoughts do. They pervade your being until you cannot imagine anything but them, they allow nothing else and they bring no release.



That is not to say we should forget about our loved ones, put those feeling away in a neatly tied boxed, never to be viewed. That, to me, is the worst thing. In my first few months as a mother dealing with grief I read self-help books in the belief they would, well, help! In one such book the writer was dismissive over the fact that a mother had kept her daughter’s bedroom the same after her death. It had been five years and the writer thought that, to cope with grief, she should "move on". That did bring some clarity to me in terms of the types of books I chose in the future.. Each person is different, each loss is unique, but loss is not something you move on from, you carry it with you, it moulds your future.



I will never stop thinking, talking, laughing, crying over Lauren. She is part of me and part of who I am. Her school bags remain where she threw them into her room that last Thursday, the note reminding her about PE is still on the noticeboard, her ballet shoes slung over the end of her bed, her school blazer hung in her wardrobe pockets still full of scribbled notes & pens. Maybe these things will change one day, maybe not. What is important in how I remember them. What my gaze falls on. The good times, the fun and the arguments and tantrums. The essence of what is Lauren.


That is why how we look at a situation is important. We have the power to adjust our gaze, concentrate more on the positive emotions and let them lift us up. Not only do positive emotions make us feel better, but research is beginning to show that they help us become better people too.


I am in no way trying to say that my daughter dying could, from any angle, be seen as a positive thing. That would be clearly ridiculous. However, instead of concentrating my thoughts on her last week alive, or all the birthdays and christmases she'll miss, I can instead concentrate my thoughts to the thirteen years she was here, remembering the fun and laughter and how she shaped all our lives in that too short of a time. It isn't easy, sometimes it is impossible, but just shifting your gaze just slightly can make all the difference.




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