What does it mean when my left eye is jumping

Video What does it mean when my left eye is jumping

Editor’s Note: Our foray into the creepy and superstitious continues with this look at a West Indian folk belief. This post originally appeared on aip on October 25, 2010, and was selected as an Investigative Blog Editor’s Pick!

Trinidadians have a rich collection of superstitions, many of which came to the island through colonialism. these beliefs reflect the ways in which ideas and explanations have been conflated here, and elsewhere, in the face of globalization. however, there is one I grew up with that seems unique to Trinidadians. It is an involuntary eye spasm colloquially known when the eye “jumps” or contracts without warning or reason. the superstition has multiple parts and meanings depending on the affected eye:

  • if your right eye pops out, you’re going to hear good news. if your left eye pops out, you’re going to hear bad news (roberts 1927: 161).
  • If your right eye pops out, someone is speaking well of you. if your left eye pops out, someone is saying bad things about you.* (if you think about the name of the people you know, when you name the right person, who is talking bad about you, your eye will stop popping out.) (roberts 1927: 161)
  • if your right eye pops out, you’ll see someone you haven’t seen in a long time.
  • if your left eye pops out, a loved one/friend is doing something behind your back.
  • if your left eye pops out, a loved one/friend may be in trouble.
  • *there seems to be some confusion with this particular version of the superstition as I’ve also seen/heard it backwards (ie right eye = someone speaking ill of you). is included here in parallel to match the other suggestions).

    There are additional variations on this theme, but all emphasize the dichotomy between the left and right eye in relation to good and bad events. the eye has long figured in superstitious lore; for example, the idea of ​​the “evil eye” may date back to 600 BC. c., and since this only marks a documented reference to the belief, it may in fact be earlier. As a source of vision, awareness, and knowledge, it is not surprising that beliefs related to the eye tend to suggest a warning.

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    superstitions are often met with a degree of contempt. rational people are often quick to dismiss them. but they still lurk in the background until the opportunity comes when they can suggest a potential “what if?” historically, when discussing superstitions, scholars (eg, matthews 1945; roberts 1927) have categorized them as “primitive” beliefs of “simple” people and overlooked the insights they can offer about how people see the world. While many superstitions have religious or supernatural overtones, many others offer interesting insights into life in a particular place. and if you dig deep enough, there are sometimes suggestive details that can explain why some superstitions persist.

    for example, in a collection of antillean beliefs and superstitions, basil matthews (1945) discusses the caniteel in trinidad: a particular hour on a particular day between july 15 and august 15 during which any plants planted will not will grow (141 ). no one knows for sure when the day or hour actually occurs. what they do know is that generally what happens is that during this period the worms eat the heart of the plant. Trinidadian farmers see this period as a bad time. many avoid planting on July 15 and then plant every other day in hopes of avoiding caniteel. some avoid planting altogether during this period. farmers have related a real fact (the activity of the worms) with a superstition (don’t sow, this period is bad).

    The same can be the case with googly eyes. the phenomenon is largely harmless, but appears to be poorly understood by science. it is officially classified as benign essential blepharospasm (beb), a phenomenon that can be disruptive in severe cases causing functional blindness:

    The condition is idiographic, but researchers believe it may be related in part to fatigue, stress, eye strain, and/or caffeine (robb-nicholson 2010: 8). In a health column at Harvard Women’s Health Watch, Dr. Celeste Robb-Nicholson advises a writer on ways to deal with “eyelid twitching”:

    Even in the less severe form, popping of the eyes can be disturbing (or at least irritating), marked by a fluttering sensation in the eyelid, twitching of the eye, or repeated closing and reopening of the eyelid. and can last from minutes to hours or can occur intermittently over the course of several days. perhaps his disturbance has contributed to his role in the superstition. Let’s consider the following:

    • bulging eyes can be caused by stress in some way.
    • because it’s disruptive, it’s memorable.
    • When a negative or anticipated event occurs after an eye popping episode, it can easily be connected to the eye popping because the phenomenon stays in the minds of those affected.
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      Since Trinidadians seem to follow traditional notions of right = good, left = bad, it may be that they are selecting events following stressful experiences that coincide with the baby-affected eye. So, for example, if they are anticipating talking to a relative who has missed a phone call, the anticipation may turn into worry and, as a result, experiencing baby as a stress response. when the family member finally calls, the bereaved person can remember that her eye popped out and connect the two. this may also explain the fluidity between mapping events to eyes. while trinis largely follow the right/left dichotomy, they have been known to blur the line and simply say “my eye was popping”. it may also be that events that can be related to the affected eye are more easily remembered. Like the caniteel, Trinitarians have connected a real event (beb) with a superstition (the baby-afflicted eye can predict or warn about events).

      Superstitions, no matter how you look at them, can be a source of comfort. they offer a way to take control of a situation and, in this case, reaffirm ties; note that the googly-eyed superstition is connected with loved ones. they can become deeply ingrained. when my eye pops out, I’m inclined to tell myself very seriously to just “let it go.” I mean, stop worrying about it. I know that my stress levels are usually high when my eye pops out, but invariably, when the phenomenon persists, it opens the door to “what ifs.” the event itself also raises my stress levels, creating a nagging sense of worry that I refuse to openly acknowledge but seem to acknowledge in small ways. for example, my behavior changes slightly. I could call my loved ones more often. and if I learn of an event that happened to one of them in this period, I wonder whose eye was affected. superstitions are persistent. it is one of the reasons why they have survived time and travel.

      Do you have any family superstitions that come up from time to time? something your grandparents or parents said or did on a regular basis? Something you yourself came to believe for no explainable reason? With Halloween just around the corner, let’s open up the vaults and see what lurks in the shadows of our minds.

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      kowal l, davies r, & Kiely PM (1998). Facial muscle spasms: an Australian study. australian and new zealand journal of ophthalmology, 26(2), 123-8 pmid:9630292

      Matthew, b. (1945). beliefs and superstitions of the west indies the american catholic sociological review, 6 (3) doi: 10.2307/3707527

      robb-nicholson c (2010). By the way, doctor. from time to time, my eyelids tremble. what causes this, and is there anything i can do about it? harvard women’s health surveillance, 17 (9) pmid: 20597142

      roberts, h. (1927). louisiana superstitions the journal of american folklore, 40 (156) doi: 10.2307/534893

Content Creator Zaid Butt joined Silsala-e-Azeemia in 2004 as student of spirituality. Mr. Zahid Butt is an IT professional, his expertise include “Web/Graphic Designer, GUI, Visualizer and Web Developer” PH: +92-3217244554

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