To fully understand how vision works from a holistic perspective, let’s compare it to the process of producing a finished photograph. Even after you’ve focused the lens and taken the picture, you still don’t have a photograph until the film gets developed. This is done in the darkroom.
When it comes to your eyesight, the darkroom is your brain – the visual centers that process the visual information sent by the eyes.
After an image is registered on the retina (film) it then has to be developed into a visual image (a photograph). This is done in the occipital region of the brain (the photographer’s darkroom).
Vision – the formation of images of the physical world – does not occur until the brain receives impulses sent to it by the eyes. The darkroom of your visual system is a portion of the brain known as the visual cortex or the occipital lobe, which is located in the back of the head.
As everyone knows, the camera could take a perfect picture, but as a result of some error in processing the photograph could appear unclear or too dark or too light. Conversely, current computer-based processing techniques can greatly enhance the quality of an under-developed picture, bringing out greater clarity, detail and brightness.
But the human darkroom – the visual processing center in the brain (particularly the occipital region) – can take an image that is blurred and make it clearer in the brain. This human darkroom is much more complex and intricate than any computer.
How complex? As one example, the light that enters the eye hits the retina where the image registers upside-down. Fortunately the image is “righted” in the seeing centers of the brain, otherwise we would see the world upside-down. Vision, or the formation of images of the physical world, does not occur until the brain receives impulses sent to it by the eyes. This system is so complex that researchers still do not know exactly how the brain produces these visual images.
The photographer in each of us
What’s missing from the eye/camera analogy is the complex role of the brain in the visual process.
In the case of the camera, it is the photographer who controls the camera – deciding what to shoot at, how much light to let in, what to focus on, for how long and from what angle.
In the case of the eye, each of us is our own photographer – and the choices we make about what we see and how we see are governed by the mysterious interplay between our physiological processes and our conscious and unconscious mental and emotional decisions.
Inner vision consists of two distinct aspects:
- Inner focus: The attitudes and perspectives that form your view of yourself and the world.
- Visualization: The ability to interpret or understand what is seen (i.e., to make meaning out of symbols) and the ability to produce images with the mind’s eye. Visualization is strongly connected to memory.
Inner focus is best illustrated by the age-old example of two people looking at a glass of water. One sees it as half full, the other as half empty. The physical reality is the same, but the focus is different. Each person has a unique inner focus – the result of the interplay between memories, past experiences, attitudes and expectations.
Many people with vision problems tend to have a negative focus about their eyesight, which only serves to reinforce the vision problem. Conversely, working to change your focus about your eyes can have a dramatically positive effect.
“I can’t see” is probably the most common negative, or limiting, statement many people have about seeing, especially those who need glasses. Just think how many times you’ve said that to yourself throughout the years – without even really thinking about it – “I can’t see,” “I can’t see without glasses,” “I can’t see that,” “I can’t see this,” etc. etc.
On the other hand, most people who have clear vision take it for granted. They don’t necessarily think positively about their eyes. But if a person has a vision problem, they often start to develop a set of negative thoughts and attitudes about their eyes. In fact, a cluster of negativity around vision and seeing often precedes – and sustains – a vision problem.
Every time you put on glasses or contacts you are saying to yourself, “I can’t see without these.” When you say, “I can’t see,” there’s a part of you that believes it to be true. This, in turn, leads to your not even bothering to look at anything without them. The less you look, the less you see; the less you see, the less you look. The spiral continues. Downward.
Another learned bad habit is not bothering to look at the world without your glasses because you cannot see it clearly. To counter this, take the time to look into your “blur zone” – that part of your visual world that you are not yet seeing as clearly as you would like. Notice – and accept – what you are seeing. It may not be what you think you should be seeing, but relax, breathe easily and blink as you look. Notice what you can see and how you feel. The more you look, the more you see; the more you see, the more you look. The more the visual centers of the brain become re-engaged in seeing. The spiral continues. Upward.
You have the power to deliberately and consciously change your inner focus. When you consistently exercise that power over time, not only will your attitudes about your vision change, but your overall outlook and perspective will also undergo a major shift.
“My vision is always improving,” “I’m looking for my vision to change,” “My vision is becoming clearer and clearer every day” and “I want to see more” are all just as “true” in describing your current situation, but they also reinforce the possibility of change.
If you would like a list of 40 additional positive statements about your eyes, email at email@example.com.
Many scientists and medical professionals already understand and appreciate that the condition of the body is affected by the content of the thoughts and the nature of the feelings. And, when you start to change these mental and emotional patterns for yourself, the body – and the eyes – responds.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as saying “I want to see” once and then having your vision become perfectly clear. That is an important first step but most often the habit patterns that you want to change go deeper. It is what we hold to be true subconsciously and emotionally that has the most profound effect on how we see. Consistent efforts at releasing negative thoughts and emotional barriers and practicing positive visualization can change the deeper subconscious patterns.
And, that’s exactly what I’ll talk about in next month’s column.
Martin Sussman, an internationally known expert in holistic vision care, is the author of five books, audio courses and DVDs, including the #1 best-selling The Program for Better Vision and the Read Without Glasses Method (for middle age sight). He is the founder and president of the Cambridge Institute for Better Vision, which he established in 1976. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about his approach to vision improvement that is more than eye exercises can be found at http://www.bettervision.com.