Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Are You Suffering From Tunnel Vision?

Overheard conversation between a young professor and a resident:

Professor: I've been thinking about buying a house.
Resident: Really? That's nice. What are you looking for?
Prof: I don't know. A nice three, maybe four bedroom place.
Res: What's wrong with where you live now?
Prof: Well, I want to buy, not rent.
Res: But isn't this a bad time to jump into the housing market?
Prof: Who knows where the market is going to head. I've got to have a nice place like all the other attendings. I'd like a really nice one, but not sure if the current salary can afford it. I bet private practice salary could afford a place I'd like.
Res: Why are you looking for a place with so many bedrooms?
Prof: I don't know. I'm single now, but if you're going to buy a nice place, might as well get several bedrooms.

What prompts an intelligent single woman into thoughts about buying a full-blown house because "all the other attendings have nice places?" Call it "sweating the small stuff." Call it "blowing things out of proportion. I call it tunnel vision. We all run the risk of tunnel vision. I'd like to introduce you to this common syndrome.

Something happens at school. Or at work. Or at home. School/work/home occupies a good amount of your waking moments, which magnifies the importance of all that is said and done in these environments. You have (a little) free time, which gives you time to mull on the event, further increasing it's significant and importance in your life. Before long, the event has become THE EVENT, and you no longer realize that THE EVENT is really only capitalized in your own little world.

For example:
1) Is there a co-worker at work that drives you up the wall? Can't stand his brown-nosing ways, or how he steps on whoever he can to try to get to the top? Sure, the guy's a farthead, but you've also got tunnel vision. What he does at work may affect you, and maybe he'll step on you to try to get ahead, but when you're on your deathbed, will that matter?

2) Remember the first person who broke your heart? How you moped for days (weeks, months, years)? How you never thought you'd get throug it? Well, look where you are today. You're all better. You had tunnel vision. Sure, you still remember it, and it was a big event in your life, but it definitely was not THE earthshattering event that you thought it was at the time. (At least, I hope not!)

3) Does driving raise your blood pressure through the roof? Can't stand people who drive too slowly, or too fast, or don't know what they're doing? Take a deep breath. You're suffering from tunnel vision. In the end, it doesn't matter if little old lady in front of you is driving way too slow. Sure, you might arrive at work a few minutes late, but ten years later, do you think this is still going to matter?

4) Remember that big midterm or final you studied for? Or the SATs? Or MCATs, GREs, LSATs, boards? It was such a big deal how well you did on that test. Or trying to pick the PERFECT college or job? Tunnel vision, my friends. When you turn forty, do you think any of this is going to matter?

These are just a few examples of tunnel vision. It's a pervasive syndrome in all our lives. The solution? We really need to get out more. School/work/home needs to occupy a smaller portion of our lives so that we can have a healthier, more balanced view of life. Volunteer - give, get, and don't waste time thinking about things that don't matter. Or just take time for yourself, where you step away from it all. Drop all the baggage that you've picked up in your life. Leave all the stressors behind. Try to look at what's bothering you from a different angle. Perhaps then you can see the tunnel you've been stuck it. Get out before you get used to the darkness in there!

Buffalo in Yellowstone National Park. Look, Mr. Buffalo's losing his fur. He could just focus on the bald patch and worry that he's going to loose all his hair. But Mr. B's too smart to get tunnel vision syndrome. What's a little hair loss when there's all this good grass to munch on? Besides, he's got plenty of hair to spare...


Blogger ipanema said...

I've had my share of tunnel visions. Whether it's corrected or not I couldn't seem to see it now. I don't know what happened. Perhaps along the way, I was cured or I found myself. But I think it will recur if I get into it again.

Thanks for this insightful post.

11:42 AM  
Blogger patch615 said...

it's really tough to not try and rationalize why you've had tunnel vision.
you're totaly right and we need to get out of it, but right after reading your post I had the automatic reaction of trying to justify my little (or big) moments of tunnel vision.
clearly I came to my senses, but the first response is denial and justification.

12:49 PM  
Blogger always learning said...

ipanema - I think it's a lifelong issue. No one is exempt, and we all lose perspective when things like this happen... if we didn't, we wouldn't be human :)

pathc 615 - Welcome! absolutely agree about the denial, justification. Do it all the time. Just shows that this is a universal topic with universal responses :)

11:09 AM  
Anonymous David Harmon said...

Anxiety, either chronic or incidental, is infamous for triggering tunnel vision.

10:42 AM  
Blogger always learning said...

David Harmon - anxiety can definitely trigger tunnel vision! unfortunately, so can a lot of things, and we often don't see the tunnel because we're too close to it! :)

9:11 PM  

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