I am human and I have a blind spot.
We all do.
It has been called a lot of things: reactiveness, shortsightedness, mindlessness, ignorance. The labels really do not matter, because labels do not help us understand ourselves better. In fact, if we react to the labels, they may make our situation worse.
What Is Our Blind Spot?
Like all other animals, we are all vulnerable. Our brains are organized to discern and respond to threats. When we are not being vigilant, we are pleasure seeking creatures. Most of the time we operate in one or the other way of being, trying to minimize threat and maximize pleasure. We, therefore, turn the world into one or the other: a source of potential harm or potential pleasure.
Our vision and brains can keep us stuck in the vicious cycle of going back and forth between pain and pleasure. Our minds categorize everything according to our desire to minimize pain and maximize pleasure. This is why wise people tell us that our desires can create problems for us.
It is not so much that our desires are a problem, it is what we do about them.
What We See Is What We Get
Our vision is the beginning of our perceptual system. Our vision system is one of the largest systems of the brain. It sorts everything in our environment and processes the information. It is not clear at what point visual inputs turn into cognition. However, it is clear that our visual system is the beginning of our perception.
Our visual system may be more important than we realize. According to MyBrainWare, vision is responsible for 70% of what we learn. That is a lot of our learning!
Our visual cortex is thought to be a part of the brain which plays an important role in visual cognition. It stores information, which we then retrieve as we interact with our environment. Scientists believe that once we identify something, we respond to it based on our expectations which derive from past conclusions about something in our environment. The way our vision and brain is structured, it would seem that we are not naturally open to new views and perceptions. Perhaps our brains do not want to rethink every conclusion on a moment to moment basis.
Perceptions And Identity
Changing perceptions is, therefore, difficult. When we form an opinion or conclusion, that information is stored. In a way you could say that we own what we perceive. It is probably also true that we personalize our perceptions. They become my perceptions. My perceptions eventually turn into my identity.
They have become solidified.
Are Perceptions Fixed?
Our perceptions when they become fixed become our way of relating to the world. We take in perceptions, create a model for the world, and then act on that model. Our perceptual model becomes our reality and we treat it as fixed.
It is likely that our perceptions will remain fixed until we put them under the microscope. We need to examine and be open to changing our views because our perceptual model does not take into account an ever changing world. That is its blind spot, its achilles heel and ours.
Culture And Perception
How role does culture have in all of this? It seems to me that if we want to be open to changing our perceptions, we need time to do so.
When we are willing to go slowly and reconsider our perceptions with care, then we have the ability to continually refresh the perceptions that are the basis of our actions. However, when we act quickly we inevitably acting based on past conclusions. Therefore, we are reinforcing those perceptions and any biases and prejudices they contain. Therefore, if you want serious change, you really need to be open to moving slowly and deliberately.
The Bias In Favor Of The Status Quo
Our perceptions, cultural structures and a high speed culture all serve to reinforce the current system we live in. The overstimulation and demands for instant gratification serve mindlessness. It is a heroic act to move in the direction of mindful living.
Rethinking our perceptions is just part of life, a necessary and responsible activity as part of our participation in this world. It is how we overcome our blind spot. When a few brave people venture into being present and mindful, it becomes easier for others.
It is a great way to participate in society in a gracious way and to be compassionate toward ourselves and others. It is really just doing one’s part.