The Blind Spots Of Wellbeing

Article in the Mindscape Section of the November 2015 Issue of Stayfit Magazine by Vinesh Sukumaran


A recent piece of news in the New York based Syracuse New Times website read

““On Sept. 28, 2015, a couple from Syracuse witnessed a gray, circular UFO. Ethan and his wife, Shemlynn, were driving on Interstate 81 south and were about nine miles south of the Watertown exit. The couple said that the sky was overcast, with little sunlight still out.

“All of a sudden, Shemlynn pointed out a gray mass in the sky,” he said. “The UFO was circular shaped, and it came twisting out of the clouds for about 5-10 seconds, then receded.”

Shemlynn said that when the UFO came out of the clouds, it seemed unstable or like it was experiencing turbulence.””

What’s interesting is that no website or news paper or TV channel reports the thousands of other couples who were having a quiet evening in New York on that very same day or for that matter anywhere else in the world. Likewise, if there’s one flight that crash lands in some city somewhere, it becomes news the world over while the millions of flights that land perfectly go unreported.

This is what I call the Vital Incident Prejudice. And interestingly, it’s a phenomenon that applies to various areas of life, especially to wellbeing. Even in the sphere of wellbeing, it’s always the hits that get registered while the misses don’t. Here are some instances of the Vital Incident Prejudice that you might relate to.

I recently met a gentleman in his mid fifties, who’d been following a particular kind of vegetarian diet for most of his life. He realized a month ago that he is diabetic. He’s now trying to change everything about his life from his job to his leisure activities and quite naturally his diet. The fact that the diet he followed all these years helped him stay hale and hearty till his mid fifties somehow seems to have zero significance all of a sudden. The single incident of being diagnosed with diabetes could make a person throw away something that was a way of life all along.

Look closely at the same example of the man in his fifties. The Vital Incident Prejudice is also at play when he plans to make changes in his life without realizing that all he has now is diabetes. He’s free from a range of other diseases that many other less fortunate ones in this world are victims of. Examine your own life and see if you’ve been doing this. Many of us are in the habit of focusing all our attention and energy on that one area that is not working well in our lives. And this happens at the cost of all the other areas that are working perfectly for us. This is known in psychology as the negativity bias.

The number of instances of this is endless. People scrapping an entire workout because someone commented on their looks one day. People latching on to the one small negative comment in a two hour conversation that had a sea of positive ones. On the brighter side, there are also people who have quit smoking altogether because they read an article about the link between smoking and impotence or breast cancer.

Try this. Take a look at all the things that are working well in your life and start by consciously feeling grateful for them. If you’re reading this article, then chances are that you already have a lot to be grateful for. It’s all those things that make up your overall sense of wellbeing. If something’s not going your way, spend some time and energy to fix it but move on. Don’t change your entire life around to nourish the plane crashes and the UFO sightings of your life.