By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Great Blind Spot: Egotism

We see it very often. Even mature people practice the "blind spot" to some degree or another when they are shocked to discover that others have a legitimate problem with something they have said or done or failed to do. But, in this post, I wish to point out the more extreme cases, which, nevertheless, are quite common. In these more extreme cases, I suspect the individual has a persistent psychological problem; you could call it a form of narcissism which blinds the person to the negative effects of actions which are plainly forseeable by others.

1.) In the public spotlight, you will read about public officials who can't figure out how shocking their actions or inactions will appear to the general, common sense public. They will inexplicably fail to detect dereliction of duty that is obvious to most people. These examples of psychological blindness can include government officials but also other public figures--for example, scandals involving the actions of college coaches.

2.) In the more private spheres of life, on a much more trivial level, I have seen persons who cannot fathom that cancelling an appointment at the absolutely very last minute calls for at least some kind attempt at a pro forma apology. On a much, much more serious level, I have seen people hide extremely unseemly behavior from future spouses--who, often, eventually and inevitably will discover the past and are, understandably, shocked and unwilling to take it all in stride.

The great blindspot exists: not seeing the negative consequences of past and present actions on others, not anticipating that others--who are perfectly normal and reasonable--will be offended or even shocked, failing to understand what all the fuss is about in a particular matter. These are signs of very troubled people. Some of them have real mitigating circumstances because of their personal lives of turmoil. Yet, the reality remains that such persons create very serious negative consequences for others. As noted before, the psychologists may call it some form of narcisissm or self-absorption.

The rest of us just call it selfishness and, very sensibly, decide to avoid further repetition. In the public sphere, you vote out the public official. In the private sphere, you also get "voted out"--and sometimes those voted out do not even realize what has happened. Without overcoming this form of narcissism, people cannot really succeed or flourish regardless of external appearances. In both the public and private spheres, when they do get "voted out," the "voters" are doing them a favor by giving them this message: Wake up! Let's hope the message gets through--for their sake and for the sake of the rest of us.

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)