Bates Method International

Techniques: The Optical Swing

The Optical Swing is easier after learning and practising the other swings. What is needed is plenty of familiarity with allowing the visual field to move; the Long Swing, Head Swing and Prayer Swing all lead to that end.

The Optical Swing

The Optical Swing involves tracing a line either vertically or horizontally with the eyes only. When the mind is at rest, the movement of the objects viewed is apparent and real, but this effect only becomes possible when you stop looking for it

If that doesn't quite make sense, think of it this way: Always with the Bates Techniques we are trying to break free from the habit to stare. Allowing the eyes to move freely and letting the world move as a result is the stare's nemesis. But when a person attempts to look for the movement, the first thing to jump back in is the habit to lock the eyes and the perception down - the stare comes in with a vengeance.

You can't lock down something that needs to be released and the optical swing is the most subtle form of swing to test your ability to let go. Any effort or force will show itself instantly, giving you clear feedback as to the state of your thoughts.

Bates made the following observations about the optical swing:

MOST people when they look at stationary objects believe that they see such objects stationary; but if they observe the facts more closely, they find that when the normal eye regards a small letter of the Snellen Test Card with normal sight, the letter does not appear to be stationary, but seems to move from side to side, a distance about the width of the letter. This is called the optical swing.

During the late war, a soldier, who was rated as a sharpshooter, told me that when he regarded the bull's eye of a target five hundred yards away or further, that he had difficulty in aiming his gun properly because the bull's eye seemed to move from side to side a very short distance. Both he and others who had observed it did not discuss the matter with any great interest.

The movement of a letter or other object from side to side in the optical swing is so short, so slow, that most persons with normal eyes have never noticed it. There is no reference to the optical swing in any publication which I have seen. It is a truth that in all cases of normal sight the optical swing can be demonstrated. In all cases of imperfect sight the optical swing is modified; it may be lengthened, it may become too rapid and irregular. The swing is a necessary part of perfect sight. The importance of it has not been realized. With the short optical swing the vision is good while the mental efficiency and the efficiency of the nerves and muscles is enormously increased.
Wm H Bates: Better Eyesight Magazines, January 1924