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Mann, G. (2007). Emotional Blindness and its Transformation. Psychoanal. Rev., 94(2):291-313.

(2007). Psychoanalytic Review, 94(2):291-313

Emotional Blindness and its Transformation

Gabriela Mann

If your picture is not good enough It means that you are not close enough

—Robert Capa

The paradox of knowing has concerned humankind since the very beginning of our civilization. On one hand there is a wish for omniscience. On the other hand there is the wish not to see whatever evokes excessive mental pain. In this paper I draw primarily from Bion's and Kohut's theoretical contributions as a basis for a contextual perspective, which is essential in relational and intersubjective thinking. I also delineate a wide array of forms and transformations of the mind: from emotional blindness, not-knowing, and dogmatic thinking, to containing, knowing, and, potentially, a transcendental mode of being. Emotional blindness and dogmatic thinking signify a closed mind, an expression of unhealthy narcissism.1 Knowing and its evolution to transcendental being signify an expansion of the mind beyond its cohesive, formative state. Dissolving the attitude of not-knowing often leads to the dissolution of narcissism.

In support of this thesis, I present two clinical vignettes (one from supervision, one from practice), to illustrate this process of transformation from the initial state of emotional blindness to transcendence of knowledge when compassion becomes possible.

Not-knowing is not just an individual occurrence. We are all too familiar with group blindness in situations of social violence, blindness to the plight of its victims and blindness to the pleas of opposing groups. A blind attitude helps us to escape social responsibility and avoid pain. It enables the individual to remain innocent and unaffected.

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