Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What Is Hysterical Blindness? And Is The U.S.A Suffering From It?

Part II: Is Seeing Or Not Solely A Medical Question?

Hysterical blindness, in the annals of psychology is also catagorized as a type of conversion reaction or disorder, meaning that symptoms displayed of a neurological dysfunction, such as blindness,  are not consistent with any organic cause. In particular, it is thought that these symptoms arise in response to stressful situations affecting an individual’s mental health. 

The term "conversion" has its origins in Freud's doctrine that anxiety, fear or traumatic episodes can be "converted" into physical symptoms. Though hysterical reactions have previously been thought to have vanished from the west in the 20th century, some research has suggested they are as common as ever. 

What has changed, however, is the name change; hysteria to conversion reaction or disorder. And, the shift from this problem, somehow, being endemic to women only as indicative of our inferiorities.

Personally, I can attest to the presence of fear, trauma and stress being converted into blindness. I have lived with this circumstance, episodes diagnosed as hysterical blindness, since the onset of an initial trauma when I was eight years old.  

But more about my story another time. Here I am most interested in creating a conversation about the parallels between physical blindness, particularly of a hysterical nature, and the discounting, denial and lying that is rampant throughout our society; a situation I consider to be akin to hysterical blindness throughout the masses of our society.

(I will also take up these three prongs, discounting, denial and lying, as the means of avoiding true reality and clarity at another time.)

(Yet, it strikes me as so incredibly beautiful that movements like the Black Lives Matter effort are actively fighting these systematic dismissals of reality daily with their protests. Bravo! Let their efforts of speaking truth to power make a difference; a big one and soon.)

The following excerpt picked up from another blog site that is no longer active illustrates some of what I wish to illuminate on the subject at hand here. I found myself rather amused at this anecdote, recounted by Dr. Sanity, a Board Certified Psychiatrist, from the case history of a patient. 

The anecdote makes one of the many points I wish to address regarding our politics and their relation to hysterical blindness.  As this piece was written in 2005, I see much about it that relates to politicians in general, not just Democrats or Republicans.  I offer it here in the service of creating the conversations I wish to encourage about hysterical blindness being very much alive – and – viral in our United States politics and society at this point in time.

By Dr. Sanity, regarding a patient diagnosed as suffering from hysterical blindness (i.e. a conversion episode).
Barbara, I submit to you, is a perfect metaphor for the Democratic Party of the 21st Century. Like Barbara, they have had a rude psychological shock, stumbled, and become blind to the serious events happening in the world around them. They feel they have been deceived and lied to --betrayed even--and have chosen to direct their rage against President Bush, the symbol of all the evil in the world. By doing so, they don't have to focus on the real evil --the horrific attacks of 9/11. They appear to be sublimely indifferent to the reality around them and choose to focus on events and incidents that are trivial in comparison. Like Barbara, their world is falling apart, but all they can do is close their eyes to it and focus ("displace") their anger onto a convenient target whose election was a blow to their narcissism.  
(In treatment} …Barbara slowly became well again. In psychotherapy, we focused on trying to get her to "see" what she really couldn't bear to face--…. she had to develop the necessary maturity to cope with the new reality of her world--to "see" it for what it was. And somewhere along that difficult psychological path, her vision returned.
I sincerely hope that the Democrats are able to negotiate that same path. 
What do you think of my premise (which I will steadfastly stand by regardless) that the dysfunction of our country is, in part, symptomatic of a hysterical blindness?

At least consider my logic and engage with me in dialogue on this critical issue.


From Anastasia, healing well from eye surgery so far.

1 comment:

  1. I find this concept most interesting. I have suffered from some loss of sight for many years. Multiple Optamologist and a vast array of tests have been unable to find a cause. Glasses do not correct my vision at all. I will be most interested in future blogs Anastasia!