The Things We Refuse to See

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Are there issues that people are afraid to talk about with you? Are there subjects you’d rather avoid? If you are like 100% of the population, you may be suffering to some degree with the same condition as those described by Jesus who “seeing see not.” There is even a legal term for it today: willful blindness. “If there’s information that you could know and you should know but you somehow manage not to know” you are willfully blind. You have chosen not to know (Margaret Heffernan, Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril). I propose that asking yourself the above questions can be a fabulous springboard for introspection and growth, if you’re brave enough. 

Thanks to the internet, I know I’m not alone in wondering how curious it is that so many of my fellow Latter-day Saints who seem to be reading the Book of Mormon could be simultaneously unsuspecting of the “secret combinations” that threaten to destroy us today. Or maybe they acknowledge that secret combinations exist in one segment of society (such as in political machinations) but their vision willfully does not extend to another segment (such as institutions of modern medicine - cancer industry, pharmaceuticals, etc). When, and if, I get a chance to talk to some of them one-on-one, what I usually discover is that they don’t care to look into such things because of the futility of it; they think nothing is ever going to change. They, therefore, choose not to know. Does it matter, one way or the other? 

Sometimes, we refuse to see something because acknowledging it would hurt too much, make us feel too guilty or demand (what we see as) too much sacrifice because of the action it would require. We like to consider ourselves good. And so, if there exists any truth that we feel would jeopardize our feelings of worth, it makes us feel safer not to look into it. Oh, golly, ask me how I know. (Please don’t, really). But we’re not safer by not knowing. We’re stopped from progressing. Isn’t that the definition of “damnation?" Stunted. Going nowhere.

What do we do to help ourselves? We’ve got to listen to the stuff that hurts the most. When it comes to overcoming blindness in ourselves, the blind little bats have a lot to teach us. It’s what comes bouncing back from the outside world that helps them navigate safely. What are you most sensitive about in conversations with others? In your interactions, what makes you angry, and why? Dig deep. 

Our dreams can help. Dreams are the attempts of our higher selves to illustrate for us what’s really going on in our lives, through the universal language of symbols. And the most helpful of all dreams, believe it or not, are nightmares...especially recurring nightmares. In the words of one of my favorite dream researchers: “They make vivid and memorable some important thoughts and feelings that we tend to push aside by day” (Gillian Holloway). Nightmares address our unfinished business - our unresolved issues. It’s usually not easy to find out what your dreams are trying to tell you without referring to “dream banks,” which are common dreams across cultures and experience. Sometimes you are too close to the issue to see your dream clearly, but if you explain it to a spouse or friend they can often see it for what it is. 

We have got to blow the whistle on ourselves sometimes. You know, it’s really sad how we often we pass off whistleblowers as crazy. Margaret Heffernan, the above-mentioned author and speaker, went around interviewing whistleblowers of all kinds and, to her surprise, she found them to be extremely loyal to the institutions they exposed. It was typically because they cared about the institution so much  and wanted to keep it healthy that they spoke up and insisted on seeing instead of turning a blind eye. We need that little whistleblower in ourselves to do its job. We need to care enough about ourselves to insist on seeing even (especially) when it hurts to see because freedom doesn’t exist if we don’t use it - which is what happens when we choose to not see the alternatives that are right in front of us.

What say ye?