Eyes wide shut. No, I’m not referring to the 1999 Stanley Kubrick film, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, about secret societies and ritualistic sexual practices! I am referring to that phenomenon among human beings to assume that they see things clearly.
Each of us has our own outlook on life. Some of us are open to having that outlook expanded or even changed as we interact with other people. Others are not so open and prefer to only look at life in a way that has been determined by them. Assuming we can see clearly and being unwilling to be open prevents us from admitting that there may be other ways of viewing life or specific situations. Such an attitude narrows our vision and stunts our growth as human beings. And it keeps us locked in rigid ways of thinking and behaving.
Eyes wide shut as an individual
I have seen this type of attitude play itself out in individuals and communities, organisations and corporations. In individuals, people who have their eyes wide shut can become quite inflexible in their attitudes and outlook. They declare that their way of seeing life is the only right one. The behaviour that accompanies an eyes wide shut viewpoint can present itself in both overt and covert ways.
Individual eyes wide shut behaviour can be dominant and overbearing. It can manifest in insistence on their own way of doing things – not only with larger issues but also in the daily minutiae of life. Eyes wide shut individuals can be bombastic and bossy, rude and arrogant. This characteristic is difficult to live with in a relationship as the partner’s viewpoints are disregarded, belittled and condemned. This partner can become cowed and submissive in an attempt to avert confrontation or even physical attack. An eyes wide shut personality is also difficult to work with in a business or organisational setting as they may be either demanding or micro-managing.
Eyes wide shut attitudes manifest in the passive behaviours of obstruction and interference. Those with an eyes wide shut outlook are resistant to change and will quietly but stubbornly work against viewpoints different to their own. Because it is not immediately obvious, covert eyes wide shut behaviours and outlooks are quite difficult to pick up on or to counteract and resist it. Those who live with covert behaviour and attitudes often walk on eggshells around their partner. They seek to modify their behaviour to stay in line with their unspoken but very real demands. In the workplace, eyes wide shut individuals can appear to be compliant. However, they will never do anything that they don’t want to do and will quietly but firmly resist any change or innovation.
Eyes wide shut in community
In communities, organisations and corporations, eyes wide shut behaviour exhibits itself in an insistence on conformity. This is again in both obvious ways and in more subtle ones. Obvious eyes wide shut behaviour can be unquestioned rules, standards of behaviour and dress. For example, fundamentalist religious groups insist on conformity to set patterns of speech and behaviour. An individual that resists the rules is ostracised and exiled – physically or emotionally. This means rejection by the community or losing a job or role in a corporate setting.
Eyes wide shut attitudes in community situations in organisations are where long-held belief patterns and structures are not assessed. They continue to insist on behaviour that is out of step with the times. Eyes wide shut attitudes are judgemental and condemning in a corporate situation.
The corporate eyes wide shut phenomenon is seen in far-right and far-left groups of radicals and activists. Neither group, at the furthest ends of the pendulum swing, acknowledges the validity of other viewpoints. Eyes wide shut groups attribute the viewpoints of the opposite end of the pendulum to those who hold a more moderate or central view. they are unwilling to admit that a person or group could balance opposing ideas or find a middle ground.
Less obvious eyes wide shut techniques in a group setting are seen in subtle teaching and communication of ideas and ideals that brook no alternate viewpoint. People who spend years in particular organisations or communities are so shaped by the attitudes and ideas of the group that they find it difficult to interact with others who do not share these viewpoints. They can have difficulty in assimilating new ideas, preferring to reject anything that differs from their viewpoint. Often, communities seek to withdraw from interactions with differing viewpoints. They consider that they are keeping community members safe from polluting influences.
Avoiding the eyes wide shut curse
None of us are immune to the eyes wide shut curse. We all have our viewpoints and outlooks and, because they’re ours, we invest them with emotional importance. These viewpoints become an extension of who we are.
Being open to viewpoints other than our own is an intentional decision. This decision needs to be made regularly, particularly when facing a new situation in life. When a long-held belief or pattern of behaviour is challenged, the natural tendency is to become defensive and go on the attack. When it is is confronted, and an individual sees the need to let it go, the loss and grief is very real. There can be a sense of aimlessness or a lack of foundations, depending on how deeply entrenched the old outlooks have been.
However, it is possible to develop a habit of allowing other viewpoints to come into our sphere. We can choose to mix with people who think differently to ourselves. We can choose to remain open to other ideas and can develop strength to face uncertainly and change.
If you would like to discuss ways in which you can develop openness and challenge the eyes wide shut syndrome in your own life, leave your details below and I’ll set up a time for us to talk.