Sometimes we don’t see what’s right in front of us until someone spells it out to us.

Yesterday was a day for humility and meekness.

I went to see my neck consultant and I was properly schooled. We had a detailed conversation about why my neck still causes issues. How I’ve been scaling my training. What rehab I’d been doing and so on. It kindof went like this:

  • Him: So let’s talk about the last incident that caused discomfort. When was it, what did you do?
  • Me: It was nearly two weeks ago. I did a box jump session.
  • Him: Be specific. How many box jumps?
  • Me: About 80 (I lied, because already I could see where this was going to go. It was actually 120 jumps. I know because I had specifically counted after the session. Because I remember thinking this was a bit insane.)
  • Him: OK. So prior to that, how many box jumps had you been doing? When did you do them? How did you feel?
  • Me: Emmmmm. It would have been about 9 weeks ago. I can’t really remember. Not as many, though…
  • Him: OK, that’s a long time ago (Side conversation about my training programme). And have you done them since?
  • Me: No, because my neck hurt…
  • Him: When will you do them again?
  • Me, cringing: emmm. Next time they’re on my programme? And I’m not in pain?
  • Him, turning the screw: … So in about 9 weeks??? And lemme guess your programme will have 80 jumps in it…

He knew he had made his point by then. I had been totally blind to this ridiculous pattern of:

  • Complete a workout.
  • Feel pain.
  • Do nothing for a bit.
  • Try again.
  • Expect a different result.

Sometimes we don’t see what’s right in front of us until someone spells it out to us.

The thing is I pride myself on being really good at this health and fitness lark.

I frequently get mums who tell me they can’t lunge because of knee pain, for example.

I’ve never ever said to them: Never mind. Do 120 lunges.

Nor have I ever said to them: OK well, let’s just never do them ever again…

Instead we regress, work on something they can do. Build up. Try again.

But in the same way, I often get mums who can’t see what’s right in front of them:

Mum: I can’t sleep at night
Me: Have you tried reducing caffeine?

Mum: I feel fuzzy and unfocused.
Me: Do you drink enough water?

Mum: I can’t lose weight
Me: Talk to me about your Starbucks Grande Caramel Latte consumption…

Turns out there’s actually a name for these mental blind spots – Psychological Schotoma (see end for an everyday example!)

Psychological Schotoma

Definition: A ‘psychological schotoma’ is a blind spot in the way we view reality. It means there is information in our experience that is inconvenient for our ego, and so our ego responds by turning a ‘blind eye’ to it. In other words, we can’t see what’s right in front of us.

You know caffeine stops you sleeping well. You know that caramel lattes are hugely calorific, You know you don’t drink enough water. I know my training plan isn’t working for me.

But it’s an inconvenient truth. Because there is some type of conflict between our beliefs, opinions, and our behaviour. And our ego doesn’t like there to be any obvious inconsistency in our thinking So it responds to such a situation by using strategies such as psychological schotoma. So you just don’t see what’s in front of you.

Because if you see it, then you have to do something about it:

  • Stop drinking caffeine.
  • Choose a less calorific drink
  • Part company with your coach and training partner.
  • Admit to yourself that 11 months later and you’re still not really over it. And you need to be focusing on boring rehab and prehab. Instead of the fun stuff. Instead of chasing big jumps.

But what’s the alternative? The alternative is being trapped in maladaptive behaviour. Or stagnation. Never reaching your objective or your potential.

So, I’ve learnt a very valuable and humbling lesson. And some new psychological terminology.

And I’m also wondering what other blind spots I’m carrying around with me. But how do you make yourself see them?

I admit I don’t have a complete answer to this (yet). But here are some thoughts:

  • Listen to your gut. Don’t try to shut it down. If I’m honest, I’ve sensed since the beginning of October that this training plan is not “right” for me… But I didn’t want to listen, much less act. (Plus not following the plan conflicted with my identity of being an athlete and a jumper…)
  • Listen to those around you. Especially if what they’re saying triggers you emotionally or makes you feel threatened. Often we tend to react by defending our position. Could this be because we’ve developed a blind spot?
  • Is there a “thing” that you feel stuck on? Health, fitness, career? Ask yourself (as nicely as you can), is there something you’re afraid to know?

I’m interested to know: Do you think you have any blindspots??

End Note: Everyday example of schotoma

The easiest example of a schotoma is when you’re looking for something you’ve lost, like your keys. And irritatingly, your husband comes along and finds it in an instant. The reason isn’t that they’re better at looking (yes!). It’s that you’ve developed a schotoma: you’ve convinced yourself it’s missing / that you’ve already looked over there. It is an ego defence mechanism designed to help you prove yourself right.

I guess this also relates to why kids can never find their missing stuff! Schucks… No don’t anyone tell them that, deal?