What obscures your vision?

We’re all flying at least partially blind. Even me.

(ESPECIALLY me, sometimes.)

It’d be wonderful if we walked around at all times with a perfectly balanced, healthy perspective on everything that’s happening in our lives, in the world, in the universe. For that matter, our brains like to fool us into THINKING we have a perfectly clear, perfectly balanced perspective on things.

But we don’t.

Everyone is blinded by something.

Maybe we’re blinded a little when it comes to some things, or blinded a lot when it comes to other things. But we must come face to face with the reality that our vision is always at least somewhat obscured.

What blinds us?

Sometimes it’s our past.

Our brains are designed to keep track of experiences we have. Even though we don’t consciously, perfectly remember many of the moments of our lives, our brains are actually VERY good at keeping track of what are called “flashbulb” moments— i.e., moments of particular trauma or particular ecstasy.

Our brains keep track of these moments because the main job of our brains is to keep us alive. As it turns out, in order to keep us alive and healthy, it’s helpful to keep track of things that feel awful or feel great, so we can do what we can to avoid the former and repeat the latter.

Sometimes, this quirk of our brains serves us well. It triggers cautionary responses that help us avoid getting hurt, and it triggers beguiling responses that help draw us toward possible pleasure.

However, sometimes, those triggers, which are designed to be helpful and which often ARE helpful…can blind us.

Sometimes a trigger that was originally meant to warn us of danger sounds too loud and too long for it to be of practical use. Its warning siren sounds too loud and too long inside our brains for us to be able to think and act productively and responsively to problems.

In the cases of people who have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the warning sirens insider their heads have been sounding for so long, it’s become impossible to turn them off, so EVERYTHING feels like a threat.

Likewise, sometimes a trigger that was originally meant to draw us toward pleasure fires too often and indiscriminately in our brains, leading us to maladaptive comfort behaviors that might have been okay or survival-enhancing in moderation…but when indulged too often, becomes a threat to our health or well-being.

In the cases of people who have developed unhealthy relationships to food or behaviors like sex or gambling, triggers that were originally meant to highlight things that enhance survival (like eating and shagging) have come to the point where they’re firing too often, causing a person to become preoccupied. If a trigger is constantly firing, then it becomes impossible to respond to it in a reasonable way— it just becomes background noise, that is either attended to all the time…or never attended to at all.

Triggers can blind us.

And then, after awhile, even our FEAR of triggers can blind us.

Our pasts, and the triggers associated with our pasts, are only one category of things that can blind us.

We can also be blinded by our belief systems, which dictate to our conscious and unconscious minds what we consider possible.

We can be blinded by prejudice that we either do or don’t consciously know about. (Yes, even “good people” with the best of intentions struggle with prejudice.)

We can absolutely be blinded by overwhelming emotion, which is excellent at narrowing our perspective and limiting our options when it comes to realistically problem-solving in the moment.

Understand: the point isn’t to do away with our blind spots.

The truth is, we can only do so much to clear our vision. Triggers, beliefs, attitudes, emotions…those things are going to happen, and they’re going to put blinders on us.

We CAN’T do away with our blind spots.

Part of being human, is being partially blind.

The point is to get ourselves out of denial that we are flying at least partially blind, at least some—if not most— of the time.

The point is to understand the sources of our obscured vision…and accept that we have to compensate for our blind spots.

The point is to give up the illusion that we are, can be, or should be perfect. If we’re going to make real progress in building better lives, job number one is to accept the glorious messiness and imperfections of the project in front of us.

To make a start on any of it, we have to stop being defensive about the fact that we’re partially blind, and embrace it. Get curious about it. Dedicate yourself to learning about your particular blind spots.

I’m still learning about mine.


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