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“Do not believe everything you think. Thoughts are just that – thoughts”, said Allan Lokos. However, many times we assume that our thoughts are reality. That our values are the highest. Our beliefs, the absolute truth. And our way of thinking, the only possible. We believe – or like to believe – that our ideas are rational and those of the others inconsistent. These immovable “certainties” usually come from our psychological blind spots. And they do not add points in our favor. On the contrary, they subtract.
What are psychological blind spots?
Like the blind spots on the road when we drive and look through the mirrors of the car, we also have blind spots in our personality that are hidden, not only to the others but to ourselves.
It can be too intense fears to recognize them, recondite desires that we do not want to accept because they go against our system of values or incipient ideas that contradict our seemingly perfect logic. In fact, often the psychological blind spots are traits that we consider shameful or unacceptable and that we do not want to recognize in us.
In 2002, a group of social psychologists from Princeton University referred to bias blind spots. It is our inability to recognize the impact of our biases and limitations on our judgment, behavior and decisions. Although we do not have problems to recognize them in others, which indicates that it is not a matter of ignorance but rather of a motivated ignorance to protect the image that we have formed of ourselves.
The problem with psychological blind spots is that we assume these biases as trustworthy, thinking that we are immune to them, so we deceive ourselves. Labeling others as biased, while we believe that we are objective and impartial, is an illusion. Everything that we deny about us weakens us because it prevents us from growing, making us assume a more immature and maladjusted posture.
How to discover our psychological blind spots?
We are not usually aware of our unconscious processes, so we cannot notice their influence on our decisions. Neither are we aware of all the factors that affect our behavior. For example, holding a hot cup in our hands can make us more collaboratives, while wearing sunglasses can make us more liars. Our behavior and decisions are constantly influenced by hundreds of stimuli, many of which pass below the radar of our consciousness.
However, psychological blind spots are those personal characteristics that we do not want to recognize. A good starting point to discover them is to focus on our most intense reactions. A very intense emotional reaction, or an unusually strong opinion, may indicate that deep down there is an unacceptable or undesirable inner impulse. In fact, we usually react intensely to the undesirable characteristics that we see in others. It is what the psychologists Hal and Sidra Stone called “disowned selves”.
This theory was confirmed by a study developed at the University of Rhode Island and another carried out at the University of Georgia. In both it was appreciated that the people who classified the erotic images as unacceptable, because they carried a great sexual guilt, were precisely those who experienced more excitement in response to those images. In other words: what we deny with more vehemence may hide a psychological blind spot.
Obviously, this tendency is not limited to sexuality, but applies to any area of life. Rough judgments about the behavior of the others usually reveal a personal insecurity coming from certain traits that we do not want to accept.
Psychological blind spots are not limited to negative reactions, they can also be expressed through extremely positive attitudes or behaviors, which suggest the lack of a desired trait. A study conducted at Case Western Reserve University, for example, revealed that people try to make an effort to appear unprejudiced and show excessively positive attitudes towards a stigmatized group when their “ego” as an unprejudiced person is threatened.
Another sign that we do not recognize our psychological blind spots is maintaining the same relationship with different people. If you always complain because your partners or friends behave in the same way, it is likely that it is because you are choosing similar psychological profiles that lead you to replicate the relationship that you are supposed to break. Until you discover what are the psychological blind spots that perpetuate those relationships, you will not be able to get out of that loop.
If you think that your luck never changes, it is also a sign that you need to bring these blind spots to light. Finally, your life does not change because you are repeating certain emotional and cognitive patterns that take you continuously to the starting point. Therefore, instead of complaining about our “bad luck”, we should ask ourselves how we are contributing to that bad luck.
3 questions to discover the psychological blind spots
Many blind spots hide truths about us that we are not willing to accept so lightly. Therefore, to do this exercise it is advisable to practice before trascendental meditation or breathing exercises that help us lower our psychological barriers. If we are relaxed and feel comfortable with ourselves, we can tolerate better that certain truths come to light. The questions you should ask yourself are:
1. What am I afraid to know?
2. What do I don’t want to accept?
3. What do I feel about me?
You do not need to do anything with the answers that come to your mind. If answers come that shake you, it is a big step because it indicates that you have discovered a psychological blind spot. You just need to get used to that new truth.
The neurologist Oliver Sacks told the case of a man blind from birth who could see when he reached middle age. Although his eyes captured the visual information, his brain did not know how to make sense of it. He could not differentiate between a man and a gorilla, until he touched a nearby statue of a gorilla, then the difference became evident.
When you locate your psychological blind spots, you are likely to experience a similar state of confusion because you are not used to those new eyes with which you see your “ego”. The first reaction is denial. We have to overcome it by understanding that we all have lights and shadows and that the better we know each other, the closer we get to the person we want to be, but the real person, not the deceptive image we have constructed.
The simple act of observing the truth about yourself without judging it will begin to change you. You will see yourself in a clearer way, with all those contradictions that enrich you and make you human. It’s a difficult journey, but it’s worth it.
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Morokoff, P. J. (1985). Effects of sex guilt, repression, sexual «arousability,» and sexual experience on female sexual arousal during erotica and fantasy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49(1), 177-187.