Schotoma: Why You Can’t See What’s Right in Front of You



Sometimes people can’t see (or hear) what’s right in front of them.

Sometimes it’s opportunities.

Sometimes it’s something they are looking for.

Has this every happened to you?   Somebody is asking you for something.  You put it right in front of them, or give them the answer.

And yet they don’t see it.  Or, they still don’t hear it?

Somehow it doesn’t register.

It’s because they have a belief.  Either they believe you don’t have the answer or that you can’t have the answer or you can’t have the answer right here, right now.   Or they believe the answer needs to look like something else.

Schotomas are Mental Blind Spots

There’s a name for these mental blind spots.

It’s a schotoma.

And, we often build our own schotomas.

In the book, Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement, Tony Robbins talks about schotomas and how these mental blind spots can keep us from seeing things right in front of us.

Beliefs Filter Our Communication

Beliefs are powerful stuff,  They limit what we can see or don’t see.   They filter our perceptions and they are always in motion.   That’s why sometimes suspending our disbelief can help us see new possibilities.

Via Unlimited Power:

“So again, what are beliefs?  They are preformed, pre-organized approaches to perception that filter our communication to ourselves in a consistent manner.”

A Sample Scenario of Schotoma

Robbins shares an example of how you can’t find the salt because you believe you can’t find the salt.

Via Unlimited Power:

“Imagine the following situation.  Someone says to you, ‘Please get the the salt,’ and as you walk into the next room, you say, ‘But I don’t know where it is.’  After looking for a few minutes, you call out, ‘I can’t find the salt.’  Then that someone walks up, takes the salt right off the shelf in front of you, and says, ‘Look, dummy, it’s right her in front of you.  If it was a snake, it would have bitten you.’  When you said, ‘I can’t,’ you gave your brain a command not to see the salt.  In psychology, we call it schotoma.”

If You Don’t Believe It, You Won’t See It

They say “seeing is believing,” but in a lot of cases, it’s actually the believing that enables the seeing.

That’s why trust and rapport, or giving somebody the benefit of the doubt, or stepping into their shoes, or looking at it from their perspective, can help get over communication humps and reduce friction, rather than talking past each other.

Via Unlimited Power:

“Remember, every human experience, everything you’ve ever said, seen, heart, felt, smelled, or tasted is stored in your brain.  When you congruently say you cannot remember, you’re right.  When you congruently say you can, you give a command to your nervous system that opens up the pathways to the part of your brain that can potentially deliver the answers you need.”

What you believe or don’t believe might hurt you.

What somebody else believes or doesn’t believe about you or what you’re saying, might hurt you, too.

Sometimes the best way to break out of the loop, is to ask a question, or a different question, or to interrupt the pattern.

Knowing that beliefs can limit what you see, what might you be able to see if you believed something different?

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Image by David Goehring.