Stress Causes: Blindness, Compartments, And Groups

by Doc Orman, M.D.

Ah, politics. The pre-election political season just kicked off, and isn’t great how passionate we can get about our political opinions.  And isn’t it a shame there are so many stupid, uncaring, evil people in our country today—you know, all those people who think and feel differently than we do. 

This week, I’m going to focus on one of the most important hidden causes of human stress:  blindness.  Conceptual, emotional, and perceptual blindness can take many forms.  In essence, however, the term “blindness” simply means how often we can be wrong in drawing conclusions, or forming opinions, based on what we see, think we see, or believe to be true. 

Compartments, Conflicts, And Stress 

[easyazon-image-link asin=”1441526323″ alt=”Compartments: How the Brightest, Best Trained, and Most Caring People Can Make Judgments That are Completely and Utterly Wrong” src=”” align=”left” width=”107″ height=”160″]There’s an interesting little book I stumbled upon that you probably haven’t heard of.  It’s called Compartments: How The Brightest, Best Trained, And Most Caring People Can Make Judgments That Are Completely And Utterly Wrong. (Click on the image to view and order from

This book, which I recommend you read, was written in 2009 by Steven R. Feldman, MD, PhD, Professor of Dermatology, Pathology, and Public Health Sciences at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.  Dr. Feldman is a dermatologist, and the main thesis of his book is this:  the groups, roles or “compartments” which we live in often cause us to misunderstand/misinterpret what’s really going on in the hearts and minds of people who are in other groups, roles, and compartments that may be different from ours.  In his own words: 

“The borders of the compartments in which we live our lives are like blinders that obscure reality in fundamentally powerful and insidious ways.” 

He goes on to extend these same basic principles to international conflicts as well, such as terrorism and the Israeli Palestinian conflict: 

“The sources of misunderstandings that occur between individuals on a daily basis are not altogether different from the sources of international conflict between peoples and nations.  By recognizing the effects of the compartments in which we live our lives, we can have a better understanding of our world and end many of the conflicts, which we face.” 

We All Live In Compartments 

According to Dr. Feldman, we all live in many different compartments throughout the course of our lives.  Each of these compartments often includes groups of other people, who are prone to misjudge the motives and intentions of people who inhabit similar, but different groups.  Examples of common compartments are: 

  • Colleges
  • Fraternities
  • Political parties or affiliations
  • Religions
  • Cities, States, Countries
  • Professions or other occupations
  • Specialists within any profession or occupation
  • Even departments within a single company 

He goes on to say that whenever we think about the people in other groups that differ from ours, we can arrive at false conclusions about these other folks, who may not be as stupid, uncaring, or evil as we think they are.  In fact, most of the time, the real truth about these other people (who we find ourselves so emotionally exorcized about) is that they are just as smart, just as caring, and just as good as we are.  They are just looking at the world differently (i.e., from their compartmentalized viewpoints) than we are. 

Three Main Hidden Sources Of Human Conflict 

Dr. Feldman identifies three main sources of conflicts that arise when we think about people in groups that differ from ours: 

1.     Things we don’t see.

2.     Things we do see, but that we shouldn’t trust.

3.     How the context of our perceptions can affect the accuracy of our perceptions. 

In the next two blog posts this week, I’ll discuss some examples of the first two of these sources.  I will leave it you to read about the third one.  Also, I will not delve into the international aspects of Dr. Feldman’s thesis, which constitutes the fourth and final section of his book. 

More To Come…Much More, Actually! 

Human blindness is one of my favorite subjects to speak about, write about, and discuss with other people.  It has more to do with the causes of stress in our lives than most of us realize. 

In fact, much of my work in the area of stress relief during the past 30 years has been directed at helping people better understand (and compensate for) the widespread role that blindness plays in producing stress in their lives. 

That’s why I was attracted to the book Compartments and why I chose it to focus on for this week’s series of three stress relief blog posts.  But I won’t be done with this topic, once this week is over.  Not by a long shot!  If you look very closely, at all my previous posts in this stress relief blog, including all the ones yet to come, you will find that almost every one of them, in one way or another, address some tiny aspect of the impact of blindness in our lives. 

So be prepared to hear much, much more about this important subject from me as time goes on.  And hopefully, as you expand your awareness of the role that blindness plays in your own life, the amount of stress you experience will decrease accordingly.





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