Thursday, 6 October 2016

Introducing Blink Weekly

Readers of this blog may not be aware that I now send out a weekly email containing tips for relating to blind people and others who are different from yourself. The aim is to cultivate understanding and appreciation for the potential of physically disabled people. Into its second, month, the newsletter is being very well received, with feedback like the following:

"Thanks for your weekly newsletter; I enjoy reading it and learning more what it is like to be visually impaired and how best to cope with somebody who has such challenges."

And again:

"Thank you so much, I am really enjoying your weekly “Blink Weekly” newsletter."

I particularly enjoy getting stories from readers such as this one:

"Unfortunately my Dad does not have a supportive community around him and had to overcome many things through hard knocks as I am sure you had too. I am too far away to make a difference in his life. He is coping very well considering his situation and is living a full and independent life.

"I love how he takes care of the little things. Eg. He has a brown and a charcoal coloured

"If I had something I wanted blind or visually impaired people to know it would be that any insensitivities from us are not intentional! For eg. I forget at times how little he sees and I would comment on a bird in the tree. This is just a habit of describing my environment to others and not very thoughtful but certainly not aimed at his disability. It could however be interpreted that way and it can be very hurtful as it makes him once more aware of what he is missing."

If you haven't yet signed up for the newsletter, please pop over to the sign-up page and do so. It will be great to have you on the list and to include you in the Blind Yet Free community.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Counteracting a victim mindset

Do you have a victim mindset? Does someone you know suffer from this malady? Awareness that a problem exists is, of course, the first step to remedying a negative situation, and only the person who is affected can do this for him- or herself. But once awareness is in place, the process of counteracting a sense of victimhood is fairly straightforward.

Jane is married to Colin, a restaurant owner who works late into the night six days a week. They never get to go on holiday and always seem to be battling to pay their bills, even though the restaurant has an excellent name and is always full. Both Jane and Colin suffer from a victim mindset, although only Jane is conscious of it.

The problem with feeling like a victim is that it leaves the person feeling helpless and hopeless. In the above example, Colin spends his life teetering on the edge of breakdown. He knows he is overworked, but believes he cannot do anything about it. Blind to the fact that he is responsible for managing his own stress levels, he blames everything from his staff to the government for the predicament he is in.

Jane, on the other hand, knows that Colin could take time off if he wanted to. He is the owner of the business, after all. By appointing a manager to run the restaurant when he is absent and delegating authority to that person to keep things running smoothly, he could alter his schedule, tag blocks of time for himself and his family, and ensure that he takes leave to go on a proper, restorative holiday each year. Her problem is that she too feels helpless and hopeless because Colin refuses point blank to follow any sort of strategy for taking control of his life. She has to put up with his bad moods and what feels like neglect, and although she can see the problem, feels powerless to change it.

Both Jane and Colin need to implement major restructuring in their lives. If they don’t, they will remain victims of circumstance. They need to identify the areas in which they have power to change things and then do so.

The key is knowing what you would prefer in place of feeling like a victim. Jane finds it hard to define an alternative reality. She can tell what is wrong, but is hard-pressd to say what she would like her life to look like instead. Her imagination has almost stopped working for her, so the first step is to revive it by dreaming, writing lists, and practising acting as if she and Colin are masters of their own destiny.

I’ve heard it said that the opposite of behaving like a victim is being a volunteer. A volunteer takes voluntary action and enjoys the feeling of making a difference in the world. Think about it, and let me know if you have any thoughts on the matter.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Psychological stress and breakdown associated with gaining independence

The following is an extract from one of the later chapters of my book What Every Blind Person Needs YOU To Know, and it deals with the psychological crisis that can occur when the wish to become independent clashes with the fear of freedom. This may not happen for your blind companion, but it is worth being aware of anyway.

The Greek philosopher Plato offered an allegory about a charioteer to illustrate the challenges facing a human soul. He described a chariot pulled by two winged horses, one white and one black. The charioteer stands for the rational part of the soul, also called the intellect, while the white and black horses represent the soul’s positive and negative urges respectively. The intellect must continually struggle to keep both sets of impulses running in the same direction, or the soul’s whole enterprise will be overturned.

The story gives useful insight into the inner conflict which may trouble your blind companion in the late stages of her progress towards independence. On the one hand, she wants freedom and power; this has been her stated desire all along, and it is obviously the one which will yield the most fulfilment for her over time. On the other hand, she wants to be sheltered and cared for because of her sense of being inadequate in the sighted world; this desire is much like the one she started out with, except that it has now developed into a much more complex argument comprising distorted wisdom and clever manipulation of the facts.

Understand that this battle between light and darkness is going on within her, not just in the outside world. You see the evidence of her inconsistency—the actions which appear bizarre and the speeches which defy comprehension. Yet, make no mistake, everything you witness is magnified tenfold in her mind. It creates unbearable stress and anxiety. Signs that this is the case are insomnia, indecisiveness, talking in circles, worry over seemingly small issues and feelings of guilt. Your visually-impaired family member, friend or colleague may become neurotic, taking responsibility for situations far beyond her control, or paranoid, believing that circumstances are conspiring to destroy her. These are all symptoms of approaching breakdown and should be addressed by a medical doctor or counsellor.

Whether she is able to manage the conflict on her own or requires intervention, this is essentially the end of the journey for you. Your blind companion will, by this time, be under no illusion about the real struggle she is undertaking. Once upon a time, she was able to blame others for keeping her from fulfilling her potential. Now, forced to take responsibility for her own choices, she realises that what is truly holding her back is her own negative impulses. Perhaps she can trace them back to a basic fear of danger, or failure, or pain, or the unknown. But regardless of whether she analyses them or not, she knows the conflict lies within, not without.