Building Awareness – Part 4
A Two Way Street
If there was ever any doubt that some patients will give us more than we can ever give them, the doubt has left me. I’m convinced. We can read all the books we want, study, study and then study some more, and in the end the first-hand accounts of how vision is working and interpretive window into someone’s perception remains a glorious phenomenon from which we can gain the most. If you stop and think about all the pieces necessary for that seemingly simple feedback loop from patient to therapist, it’s pretty humbling. With that, here’s an excerpt from Candy’s recent email:
Imagine tomorrow you wake up and suddenly realize there’s a new color in the primary spectrum that you cannot see, and have never seen. You go to the doctor, work your way through therapy, and conceptually you understand where in the spectrum this new color fits and how it is seen; yet, you still cannot see it no matter which direction you look. You get this inkling of what the given color might look like, mostly based on what other people tell you, and no matter where or how you look for it, you’re still unaware. And then suddenly you realize that there may have actually periods in life where the color was in your viewing area, and yet, your awareness was so misguided or eccentric that you weren’t able to appreciate it. Therefore, you’re left to conclude, following intense therapy addressing the mechanical areas of vision, that the real issue is not an ability or inability to place your eyes on the given color; rather, in locating the flexibility within your conscious perception for a different awareness than you’ve ever experienced. This is my sense of stereopsis.
Feel free to read that again. I did.
Candy has opened my eyes to the importance of awareness; or perhaps better stated, she increased my awareness to the importance of awareness as a skill set. The value I currently place there is simply much deeper. So many times I’ve asked patients to “be aware of the changes”, never really considering that awareness, in and of itself, can be the challenging factor. Think about it – how can we have awareness for something we’ve never known, never experienced, and for which we’ve never built a foundation? Or in Candy’s words, how can you appreciate a color if you’ve never seen it, don’t know where to look for it, and don’t even know what it is? As much as we hope depth just “comes to people” through Vision Therapy, what’s the plan if it just doesn’t? How do we help them to be aware of the many subtleties that occur within vision?
It’s interesting to me how this slight adjustment, or maybe just a different way of looking at a concept, has completely taken my thinking to a whole new level. You may be sitting there thinking to yourself – DUH! – awareness is important and has been important from day one. I couldn’t agree more. That’s not where I’m headed. My thoughts are deeper than that. Consider this:
Eyes don’t tell people what to see; people tell eyes what to look for ~ Dr. Lawrence McDonald
A key element to this process is having the knowledge and awareness of what you are looking for, so you can look for it; much like Candy and her stereopsis. But if you have zero experience with something, and zero knowledge of what it could, or should, look like, how can you direct your eyes to look for it? How do you look for something for which you hold no meaning?
It seems the answer is to find a new type of awareness, which as Candy notes, involves the flexibility to consider areas of perception that perhaps were previously unexplored. Having the ability to discover those areas are can be tough, from both sides of proverbial Vision Therapy table.
It is from that quandary that I now cultivate my questions during VT sessions, and the shift in overall awareness for my patients has been unbelievable. It goes beyond the simple questions like “what do you see?”, and touches on more deep concepts like “what does it mean to you when…?” and “how else might we interpret…?”
It’s been opined by many that vision is a two-way street, and as I learned from Candy, so are the growth opportunities in Vision Therapy.