blind spots

blind spots 1.

One of the most fortunate misfortunes I have experienced in my life is that many years ago I temporarily experienced a blind spot in my vision. A capillary on my retina had ruptured, and it took a long while before it healed. In the meantime, it caused a blind spot which has been instructive in many aspects of my life and understanding other people.

how it doesnt workHere is the weird thing about blind spots: you can’t see them. I know, that sounds like a great big “Duh.” But blind spots don’t have perceivable edges like a black spot would as the photo to the right illustrates. It’s almost like they’re not even there. They are simply devoid of information, and you have to infer what is missing. But inferring what you don’t know is supposed to be there is really hard.

I remember seeing a person on the street, and every part of him was visible except his face. It was almost as if I had prosopagnosia, or face blindness, an incurable cognitive/neurological disorder that impairs the ability to recognize faces—even those that should be familiar. His face wasn’t invisible—it just wasn’t there. If I had not been habituated to seeing faces on people, I wouldn’t know it was missing.

A corporate training company I used to work for had a couple terms: “unconscious competent” and “unconscious incompetent.” The experience of having had a blind spot brought new meaning to the latter term. It has made me more appreciative of the plight of kids who have never experienced what most of us learn. A friend who was a market research director used to say: “You can’t imagine a flavor you’ve never tasted.” You don’t know what you’re missing in the most profound and complete way of not knowing.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have not broken the “code” for how I can be most helpful to grown kids who have grown up in homes without love, where the only form of attention was abuse. But that is not to say that one should stop trying. One must be tolerant of the lengthy process of trial-and-error required on both sides, and that someone is us.



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