Blind spots, Limits and Personal Brilliance

By Ken Wells - 09/02/2020


Series One: Blog Thirty-Five

We like to lionize and make legend out of other people’s strength and achievement, while criticizing other’s weaknesses and at the same time minimizing our own capability. We like to live by lore and legend. Upon reflection, the houses we lived in seem a lot bigger as a kid than they really were. The baseball fields we played on as a kid seem a lot smaller when we visit them as an adult than what we remembered as a kid. As adults, we immortalize accomplishments in sports and idealize others who achieve success, particularly financial and positions of power. We like to put people on pedestals. It comes from the very nature in how we grow up. Children pedestalize their parents. Developmentally, children are so dependent upon their caregivers. Concepts about God are formed by a child’s relationship to their parents. During the years between 3 and 11 or so, parents are God to their children. If dad comes in one day and announces that the sun is going to come up from the west and will be bright blue, a 5 year old will likely believe it. A child needs to be able to depend upon his parents in such a way during these times of vulnerability. Eventually, parents have to be taken off the pedestal. This act of maturity often gets missed by many. We tend to protect and defend, ignore and suppress reality about the way our parents raised us. I hear that frequently when someone says “I had a perfect childhood”, as if anyone knows what one is.

From this we tend to develop blind spots. Physically, a blind spot in your eye is located on the retina where the optic nerve exits the back of the eye. In a less than scientific explanation, there is a very tiny gap in your vision where you are essentially blind. You don’t even know it is there. Thus, the use of the term “blind spot”. In context, we use the term “blind spot” to describe experiences in our lives that we don’t see or notice. You can have a blind spot in your parenting style, your relationship patterns or the way you go about your business. Blind spots also show up in the way you perceive your reality about self and others. The downside of idolizing someone in their accomplishment is that you tend to distort the reality of who the person is as a human being. There is the tendency to overlook the average commonplace experiences that they must contend with just like everyone else. As a kid, my coaches use to say about an intimidating opponent “they put their pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else”. It never really helped. We still got hammered. Either poor judgment of talent by our coach, the lack of confidence in ability by the players or a combination became a blind spot that sealed the outcome.

Blind spot show up in recovery all the time. Sometimes we call it “pink clouding”. Everything is great and smooth sailing- no craving, no big problems. Sometimes you wonder why you ever struggled. Then, as if someone pulls the rug out from under you, everything crashes down around you- triggering you to either act out or hang on by your fingernails. In other times, you can engage breakthrough experiences, like, finally surrendering to attending meetings, working the steps, actually listening to your sponsor and living in consultation with others. The positive energy that is generated is appreciated and you seem to make important progress. However, if you are not careful, you can carelessly address issues that you feel good about while avoiding issues that are uncomfortable and uncertain. You can tend to avoid therapists or group members who get in “your kitchen” and confront you about issues that trigger unwanted feelings. This is just another blind spot to your recovery that must be addressed. Usually in recovery, people who stir unwanted feelings around tough issues are unnoticed gifts of brilliance that the universe brings into your life to help you recognize and address blind spots that if left untended will leave you shortchanged in your healing journey. When you are stuck in a blind spot in recovery, you become vulnerable toward lionizing others’ behavior and advice. You can put people on a pedestal and divide the recovery group into “haves” and “have-nots”. There are the gurus who have all the answers and the others looking for them. In recovery, most of the answers that you need come from within and are cultivated in honest/frank relationship, more so with the “have-nots” than with the “haves”-the “gurus”. Dysfunctional families foster blind spots systemically by cultivating a family system that embraces that improbable and ignores the obvious. Ignoring the real in favor of pretend always results in blind spot living.

Coming to terms with limitation is a recovery reality that requires responsibility. In order to effectively navigate through life and not lose yourself you must be able to recognize your limits and be grounded in who you are. It is common to lose yourself through addictive behavior. Addicts struggle to find themselves in recovery. In general people look for themselves from the outside/in. You can fall prey to a compare and compete mentality. It is easy to become enamored by the strengths of someone else who may present as very intellectual, knowledgeable or capable. Silently, you can put them on a pedestal that you use to judge others who do not demonstrate these traits. You can create a hero worship mentality about their accomplishments and what they represent. Subtly, you judge people who have these traits one way and those who do not another. When you evaluate your world with a compare and compete mentality you lose sight of your own personal strengths and brilliance. For example, my wife Eileen is directionally challenged. For her, to go anywhere unfamiliar means to rely upon a directional app on her phone. I can show her landmarks and try to tell her to get a sense where she is with the help of the landmark but that seldom is helpful. She is directionally challenged! She is likely to always need an app or a set of written directions. I am not directionally challenged. In another area, Eileen has unusual strengths toward financial planning and detail. She is outstanding in these areas in figuring out how to navigate through life. This is one area of brilliance she manifests. Where she isn’t strong she simply relies upon the phone app for directions. She frustrates herself and assaults her self-esteem when she listens to or criticizes herself for where she does not have strength. While she stresses about what is not her strength and tries to improve on it, she automatically begins to discount where her strength lies and the exchange buries awareness to personal brilliance. I have experienced the same. Academically, I have been poorly trained in understanding mathematics. To say the least other than simple addition and subtraction, I am inadequate. I, also, am not very good with my hands and have little training about home repair. I should say little interest as well. Yet, being able to figure out relationship problems has proven to be a strength. I used to fret about what I could not do. However, I have discovered that the more I let go of where I do not have strength and stop comparing and competing, the more increased awareness I have about what my strengths are. Like, I have extremely talented people in areas that are not my strength come to seek support and healing because of the strength that I do possess. I know nothing about financial strategy, astrophysics, medicine, mathematics, engineering, rocket science or how to hit a curve ball. But, I do know a lot about how to heal a broken heart and about how to address addictive behavior. I become grounded in my own brilliance when I recognize my limits and let go of trying to strive to be what I am not. There is an age old perspective expressed by Thomas Merton that “finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself, and if I accept myself fully in the right way, I will already have surpassed myself.” Acceptance of limitation is at the crux of self-acceptance, particularly true for addicts in recovery.

Personal brilliance unfolds when you can settle into your own acceptance of your limitations. When this happens, there is less need to look outside of yourself for validation and a sense of direction. You no longer need to compare or compete with someone else from a fear that you will be judged. When you are settled about your own brilliance and strength, you are able to resource yourself from within. When you are in tune to your own brilliance it is not necessary to become a self-sustained lone ranger. Rather, you are able to readily identify your limits in terms of what you can and cannot do by yourself. When you can do this you can more quickly access outside resource. The only real obstacle is your own sense of pride which melts away when you live inside your limits and settle into your own strength and brilliance to address and resolve the challenges of recovery.

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