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Seeing clearly: Uncovering blind spots for personal growth, improved relationships and greater professional success


Women shielding her face from the sunlit with her hands
It takes courage and commitment to view areas of ourselves that we hide, but doing so leads to greater personal success and fulfilment. (Photo credit: Patrick Hawlik)

Blind spots are more than just a missing spot in our field of vision or the area we can’t see when driving; they are figurative spots in our lives, personalities, emotions, actions, and beliefs that sit outside our conscious and subconscious awareness. Yet, they are clearly obvious to others. 


In my private practice and professional settings, I've heard patients and clients share their stories, often noticing how what seemed obvious to me was completely hidden to them. However, once they were able to recognise and acknowledge this hidden aspect or blind spot, we could then address the root causes of their challenges, leading to significant shifts in their perspective and paving the way for positive change in their lives. 


Yet, given our aversion to the pain caused by blind spots, what instinctual mechanisms might keep us unaware? Why do we develop blind spots, and importantly, how can we overcome them?


What is a blind spot?

A blind spot is an aspect of our personality, behaviour, or beliefs that we are unaware of but is evident to others. These areas are unconscious and can impact our interactions and decisions, often going unnoticed until brought to our attention through feedback, self-reflection or when repeated patterns in our life recur and we are impelled to look deeper as to why. 


Examples of blind spots

In a relationship, a blind spot might be one partner’s tendency to interrupt or dominate conversations without realising it. While they may think they are being helpful, their partner may feel unheard and undervalued, leading to frustration and communication breakdowns.


In a workplace setting, a blind spot might be a manager who believes they are approachable and supportive but frequently dismisses their team's ideas or feedback without realising it. This can create a culture where employees feel undervalued and reluctant to share their thoughts, ultimately stifling innovation and reducing morale.


Understanding blind spots vs denial: Key differences and impact

It's important to understand the difference between blind spots and denial, as they're often confused. While both are important in psychology, spirituality, leadership, and self-awareness, they each carry distinct meanings, implications and solutions.


Denial is a psychological defence mechanism where we refuse to accept or acknowledge a reality or truth, often to protect ourself and to avoid discomfort, anxiety, or a threat to our self-image. It involves consciously or unconsciously rejecting evidence, facts, or experiences that challenge our beliefs or perceptions. For example, refusing to accept a medical diagnosis, ignoring financial problems, or dismissing evidence of a partner’s infidelity.


A blind spot, on the other hand, refers to aspects of ourselves or our behaviour that we are unaware of but which others may clearly see. They are usually passive and unconscious. Often, blind spots are revealed through feedback from others or through self-reflection and personal development. For example, not recognising our own limitations in certain skills, being unaware of how our behaviour affects others, or lacking insight into personal prejudices.


Denial acts as a barrier to identifying and addressing blind spots by blocking our acceptance of feedback and acknowledgment of truths about ourselves. Overcoming denial is essential before we can effectively recognise and work on our blind spots.


Uncovering blind spots: Cognitive biases, defence mechanisms, and self-perception

Blind spots in our self-awareness come from cognitive biases, defence mechanisms, and how we see ourselves. Cognitive biases, like confirmation bias, make us favour information that fits what we already believe and ignore what doesn't. Defence mechanisms, such as denial or repression, protect us from facing uncomfortable truths, keeping certain behaviours or traits out of our conscious mind. We also want to see ourselves in a positive light, so we might overlook or rationalise our flaws. 


We stay oblivious to these aspects because admitting them can be tough and might shake up our sense of who we are. This mix of biases, defence mechanisms, and our self-perception keeps us from easily spotting and addressing our blind spots.


The psychological benefits of maintaining blind spots

From a survival perspective, maintaining certain blind spots can protect our mental health by allowing us to avoid overwhelming anxiety or stress that might arise from confronting uncomfortable truths. This self-preservation mechanism helps us maintain a stable and cohesive sense of identity, enabling us to function effectively in our daily lives. 


Physiologically, the brain’s reward system can reinforce blind spots by releasing feel-good chemicals when we avoid painful or threatening information, thus encouraging this avoidance behaviour. 


Additionally, staying blissfully ignorant to blind spots and to certain flaws or weaknesses can prevent social conflict and maintain group cohesion. Overall, these instinctual benefits suggest that holding onto blind spots, while potentially limiting self-growth, serves an important role in our psychological and social well-being.


Breaking through emotional barriers to address our blind spots

Emotional barriers often prevent us from addressing our blind spots, primarily due to our fear of discomfort or vulnerability. Confronting these hidden aspects of ourselves can evoke feelings of shame, guilt, or insecurity, which we instinctively avoid to protect our self-esteem. Moreover, acknowledging blind spots may require admitting mistakes or flaws, which can be psychologically challenging and may threaten our sense of identity. Fear of judgment or rejection by others also plays a significant role, as we tend to prioritise social acceptance and fear negative repercussions from revealing our weaknesses. These emotional barriers create a reluctance to engage in self-reflection or seek feedback, perpetuating the cycle of remaining unaware of and unwilling to address our blind spots.


Negative consequences of ignoring blind spots

Not addressing our blind spots can lead to various negative consequences that affect both personal growth and relationships. Ignoring these hidden aspects can perpetuate harmful patterns of behaviour or thinking, hindering self-improvement and limiting career advancement. 


In relationships, unresolved blind spots may lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and barriers to intimacy, as they can manifest as unacknowledged biases, communication difficulties, or emotional triggers. 


Personally, failing to address blind spots can erode self-confidence and resilience, as well as hinder emotional maturity and fulfilment. 


Professionally, not addressing our blind spots can potentially limit career progression and effectiveness in roles where self-awareness and adaptability are crucial. 


Not addressing our blind spots as an elite athlete can impair performance and hinder improvement in skills critical to competitive success, highlighting the importance of self-awareness and targeted development in athletic endeavours.


Additionally, as parents, unresolved blind spots can influence our parenting styles and interactions with children, affecting their development and the quality of family dynamics. 


Over time, these unaddressed blind spots can contribute to stagnation in personal development and missed opportunities for learning and growth. Addressing blind spots is crucial for fostering self-awareness, improving relationships, increased personal satisfaction and achieving long-term personal and professional success.


Navigating the paradox: How can I start to be aware of and see my blind spots?

The paradox of becoming aware of and seeing our blind spots begins with a willingness to cultivate genuine self-awareness, which involves questioning our assumptions, beliefs, and behaviours. This process often requires courage to step outside of our comfort zones, embrace humility, and foster an openness to change, as it allows us to confront uncomfortable truths and acknowledge areas where our perception may be limited.


What to look out for: Signs that indicate you are harbouring a blind spot

Signs that indicate you are harbouring a blind spot include recurring conflicts or misunderstandings in relationships, where others seem to react differently than expected to your actions or words. Another indicator is a persistent inability to achieve desired goals or progress in certain areas despite effort, which may point to unrecognised barriers or biases influencing your decisions. Feeling defensive or resistant to feedback, especially when it challenges your self-perception or beliefs, can also signal the presence of a blind spot. Additionally, noticing patterns of behaviour or reactions that surprise you when pointed out by others may reveal areas where your self-awareness is lacking.


The process to eliminate blind spots

The process of identifying and removing blind spots usually involves increasing self-awareness and seeking feedback from others. Here’s a more detailed look at the process:


Self-awareness: The initial step is developing a heightened sense of self-awareness. This involves self-reflection and introspection to recognise personal behaviours, attitudes, and beliefs.


Seeking feedback: Actively seeking feedback from trusted friends, family members, or colleagues can help reveal blind spots.


Open-mindedness: Being open to receiving and considering feedback without becoming defensive is crucial. This openness can prevent denial and facilitate the recognition of blind spots.


Self-reflection: After receiving feedback, reflecting on it and considering how it applies to our behaviour and attitudes is essential. This step involves honest self-assessment and a willingness to see ourselves more clearly. Nostalgia can aid in removing a blind spot by encouraging reflection on past experiences, which can provide insights into previously unnoticed behaviours or patterns. Through mindfulness, sound therapy, journaling, prayer, contemplation, creative expression, and monitoring your dreams, you can become more consciously aware of blind spots.  


The epiphany: An epiphany plays a crucial role in removing a blind spot by providing a sudden and profound realisation that brings hidden aspects of ourselves into clear awareness.


Behavioural change: Once blind spots are identified, actively working on changing behaviours and attitudes can help remove them. This might involve setting specific goals, seeking further education or training, or practicing new behaviours. Being more mindful in your day-to-day in order to notice when the blind spot is active and then consciously choosing differently.


Most of us have psychological blind spots – hidden aspects of our personalities that everyone else can see but ourselves.

The Johari Window: A model to address blind spots

The Johari Window is a model that I learned about in my studies to become a Spiritual Care Practitioner. Generally used in a group setting, the model invites self-reflection to foster better self-awareness, improved interpersonal relationships and group dynamics by categorising personal information into four quadrants: open, hidden, blind, and unknown. The quadrant representing blind indicates areas that others can see but we cannot, and hidden represents areas we are aware of but hide from others, open are areas both you and others know of, and unknown are areas that no one is aware of. This is a useful and practical tool particularly for groups to help understand yourself and the other and to help foster humility and group cohesion.


Embracing spiritual growth through addressing blind spots

The spiritual significance of blind spots lies in their role as opportunities for growth and self-discovery and which hinder our embodiment of spiritual principles like compassion, authenticity and inner peace. Our blind spots often keep us disconnected from our true essence or higher consciousness. 


Addressing our blind spots through introspection, reflection and spiritual practices like mindfulness, sound meditation, contemplation and prayer can lead to profound personal transformation and alignment with spiritual and general life values. Uncovering and working through our blind spots can deepen experience of life, cultivate greater empathy and understanding, and ultimately, help us experience a more meaningful and harmonious existence.



 

This article was written by Nicole Sultana, she holds a Post Graduate Degree in Spiritual Care, a Bach. App. Science in Sports Science/Human Movement, is a Certified Therapeutic Sound Practitioner and a Death Doula. She is the founder of Sound Consciousness, a company that provides wellbeing strategies and therapeutic sound practices to help individuals reach peak levels of performance whether they wish to excel in their professional lives, be the best partner they can be, or wish to create the life of their dreams. 


If there are areas in your life that you would like help bringing into your conscious awareness, then send us an email and let’s see how we can work together, alternatively if you are ready to get to work, book now.


If you enjoyed reading this article leave a comment below and share the article with others who may benefit. The more we share our collective experiences the more we help each other learn, grow and heal. Heated discussion is always welcomed, as that makes us multi-dimensional humans. Please remember to be respectful and kind at heart.

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