A classic bible verse advises that helping our brother or anyone else requires us to first remove the log from our own eye. Emotional blind spots limit our ability to recognize the personal limitations within ourselves we may be unwilling to face. These blind spots can lead us to project onto others and create a cycle cementing us in place and causing pain. We all possess these personal blind spots, and until we face them honestly, we circle about without constructing an honest and open dialogue with ourselves about personal failures and vulnerabilities. When a relationship becomes marred in a partner’s inability to confront the issues created by their denial, it often breaks up without understanding of what happened.
Although we all experience our own unique blind spots, below I listed four common ones many relationships struggle with.
1. Denial and/or running away from negative feelings. Denial prevents you from facing your blind spots. Denial isn’t ignorance. It’s a refusal to see and acknowledge the truth. To overcome the fear that arises from troubling information about ourselves, we sometimes choose to live in a fantasy world. Relationships cannot survive when partners are unable to express themselves openly and honestly with one another. The only way to overcome denial is through personal growth - choosing to better understand yourself and practicing bravery. Bad news hurts, but pain is part of the human condition. To feel is a gift in life. Numbing feelings as a survival mechanism leads to addictive behaviors and excludes you from experiencing a healthy and loving intimate relationship.
2. Experiencing the same relationship with different people. Are your partner and intimate friends’ drainers or venters? Does your partner in every relationship ignore or talk over you? Most of us choose friends and intimate partners based on our personality profile. If you feel surrounded by takers, you may fear facing personal vulnerabilities such as feelings of shame or unworthiness of love. If those closest to you do not make themselves available to listen to and care for you, you may find yourself resisting or intellectualizing your true feelings rather than owning them and advocating for your needs. Blaming others for your inability to be genuine leads to superficial relationships and lonely marriages. Situational awareness starts by closely examining those you surround yourself with, allowing you to define and develop new patterns of interrelating with others. New patterns must be based upon your honest needs rather than prioritizing feeling accepted by your partner.
3. Creating vague or blurry boundaries. Essential to forming a healthy relationship, protect your boundaries. A boundary communicates relationship security to your partner and allows them freedom to be honest and vulnerable with you. If you remain vague or allow others to make decisions for you to win their approval, you put your relationship at risk for infidelity. Relationships require firm boundaries, and you cannot be firm when your self-esteem depends on pleasing others. Be open about your weaknesses, and if you need additional help setting secure boundaries, recruit a relationship therapist to offer guidance. Affairs destroy relationships every day. When couples refuse to discuss personal insecurities, an emotional blind spot is created that may limit the couple’s ability to set strong boundaries.
4. Presenting a fake, you and minimizing your true feelings. When you present a false persona, you prevent others from intimately knowing you. Dismissing or minimizing true feelings sends false communication to those we love most. Do you feel as though people misread or misjudge you? Do they say things that are in opposition to the person you feel yourself to be? You may be presenting a false sense of yourself. Accepting yourself and your faults is the first step to tackling this issue. From there, rather than minimizing how sad or angry you feel, be honest and acknowledge it. Acting out in a passive aggressive manner with your partner, friends, or children leads to relationship distress. Instead, give others the opportunity to build a close intimate relationship with you by letting them know your true self. This will allow you to feel more comfortable in your own skin.
To help you begin identifying your blind spots, try the following exercise for two weeks. Awareness of the reasons we avoid facing difficult parts of ourselves can give perspective into why we continue negative patterns with the people we love most.
1. Spend time reflecting upon the following questions about yourself and journal your responses:
● What am I afraid to know?
● What do I least want to accept?
● What do I feel/sense without fully acknowledging?
2. Ask those closest to you for feedback about what they see in your actions and the negative situations you seem to attract.
3. Reflect upon their feedback without defensive judgments. Discard observations that don’t seem to fit.
4. Be brave by acknowledging behaviors you fear most.
As children, emotional blind spots act as coping mechanisms to protect us from the harsh realities of life. Identifying them and accepting weaker areas of our personality helps us find friends and partners who encourage our strengths and accept our faults. This process also increases the compassion and grace we offer to others.