Ostrich syndrome, also known as willful blindness, refers to a person's refusal to see or acknowledge a potentially harmful or inconvenient truth. It is named after the common misconception that ostriches bury their heads in the sand to avoid danger, when in fact they do not exhibit this behavior.
The term "ostrich syndrome" can be used to describe situations where individuals or groups avoid facing reality or dealing with a problem in an effort to avoid the anxiety or stress that might come with it.
I am interested in WHY this occurs and even normalized amongst the human condition.
First off we must admit that we as a species are made of and contained within a complex system. Living and walking in a world of further complex systems. Due to my belief in holistic system intelligence, whether in a body, institution, or culture, I will attempt to address more than the obvious reason(s) as to why this is not only a pernicious pattern but a destructive one.
Let's start with the obvious.
Humans turn a blind eye to the truth to feel safe, to avoid conflict
To reduce anxiety, and to protect prestige, reputation, and even to claim to protect others, especially children or close knit kin and those we "care" about.
Now that we got that out of the way, let's go a bit deeper into each of these so called defense mechanisms.
To feel safe. We have a learned behavior to fear the unknown. When we are afraid we often radically hyper-focus and even catatrophize on the "what" will happen after we would change a circumstance. If we have built and contributed to concretizing something that is unsafe or unhealthy, we put more mental stock into not only the under belly of fears, but the reasons why we turn a blind eye and choose to stay. This builds and energetic mental polarization. A mental schism to perceivable stay "safe" Anyone who has felt this knows that the perceived safety is often haunted with the fear of reality.
Mentally, emotionally, and physically taking responsibility to see our part in the dysfunction, we need an exceptional amount of courage and energetic momentum to step into that internal unknown. In solely blaming "the other" we can gather often unconscious energetic momentum through anger and other emotions with an extrinsic charge. If we are feeling heavier emotions such as guilt, shame, and disappointment, it becomes a weight that can paralyze the psyche and solidify the entropic mentality. We identify this as being "stuck". To steel-man this hypothesis, sometimes in abusive relationships, we have indeed experienced the outcome as always being worse than the choice to stay. There is and always has been collateral damages collectively in the choice to leave something where another person or construct has a power over dynamic. Alternately, It can look like someone radically attempting to reclaim their power after seasons of oppression. An opportunity is need to learn self awareness is crucial to develop discernment. When we understand we can begin the process of choosing healthier relationships, with partners, friends, colleagues, and even with our work institutions and businesses. We can begin to align. The grass isn't always greener? Or the grass is greener? This is the choice point along the spectrum of an evolutionary process and getting radically honest with whether we are choosing to stay safe willfully knowing it is not in our best interest and why is an individual choice. Inside, you know the truth. And if we don't feel it, continue searching.
2. To avoid conflict. In a healthy relationship, conflict looks different from conflict in relationships where the partners have a lack of self awareness. This is where Carl Jung's work of studying the personal shadow, self bias's, and auto therapeutic reflection in my opinion can begin to change how we communicate. One of the greatest entrapments we get into personally, relationally, and systemically, is the unconscious art of projection. This cultivates egregoric, or mythological energies to "play out" within relationships and is difficult, to say the least, to identity what the truth of the matter actually is.
According to Kate Strong, The concept of egregores is used to describe a though form that is created when people come together with a common interest and focus their energy on it.
These thought forms are made up of the thoughts, ideas and feelings that the group inadvertently sends out through their collective group mind or collective consciousness. It is hard to create one on purpose because they are often unintentional."
It requires deep systemic work, and in a society that values excess materialism living in an
Addiction and attention crisis, it takes work to commit to.
Projection is a defense mechanism in which an individual attributes their own thoughts, feelings, or attitudes onto someone else. It is a way of coping with unpleasant or uncomfortable emotions by denying them in oneself and attributing them to someone else. For example, if a person is feeling guilty about something, they may project those feelings onto someone else and accuse them of the same thing. Projection can be a subtle and unconscious process, and it can be difficult for people to recognize when they are engaging in it. It is a common defense mechanism that can be found in many different kinds of relationships.
3.To reduce anxiety. Let's begin with the facts...According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting around 40 million adults in the country, or about 18.1% of the population. Anxiety disorders are characterized by feelings of worry, anxiety, or fear that are excessive, irrational, or difficult to control. They can interfere with daily functioning and may require treatment to manage. There are several different types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder, among others.
This is a much larger conversation. Simply put, under pressure, it's more challenging to make changes. Anxiety is in itself a condition with periods of extreme energetic paralyzation. If we have multiple factors within the self, mentally and physically, affecting our health and well-being, it makes everything more difficult. Striving for best practices in amplifying health; physically, emotionally, and mentally, offers us more fertile ground to feel strong enough to face the true self amongst the unknown.
4. The self protection mechanism. Reputation, fear of what others may say, image, and reputation is often a fear of who am I beyond what image I have created. No one wants to be literally annihilated, especially publicly. This is only truly understood when we move aside triggers and take a deeper spiritual approach. Not one of escaping reality, but one of including a broader perspective. Facing the "self" along with our images and personas that we've worked hard to achieve and project feels nothing short of a death. In spiritual phenomenology, the break down of the ego identification, known as ego death often associated with spiritual awakening' occurs when a soul is ready to see and experience that which is beyond the material realm. In
Psychoanalytic theory, the ego is defined as "the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing while cultivating a sense of personal identity."
Simply put you can think of your ego as the image you hold of yourself, which affects everything from how you perceive the world to how you behave around others.
According to Sarah Regan, ego death is the (often instantaneous) realization that you are not truly the things you've identified with, and the "ego" or sense of self you've created in your mind is a fabrication. In some instances, it can offer a profound feeling of peace and interconnectedness with all that is, as the walls of separation the ego creates come crumbling down.
In other cases this feel more solely as a complete loss of subjective self-identity, causing depression, anxiety, and fear.
Choosing to self reflect and commit to exploring the process of inner work, can be a prime catalyst in gaining spiritual density to be able to "navigate" these life changing experiences. Once we grasp an awareness of the inner journey, we see this is a life process, a choice to go within and deeper to discover how we actually are all more similar and united that we may perceive in the world of separate self states within the world of materialism and enhancing our"selves" as means to be in competition with others rather than in connection.
Steps to embrace fear of change:
Acknowledge your fear: It's important to recognize and acknowledge your feelings of fear. This can help you better understand what's causing your fear and how you can address it.
Take things one step at a time: Instead of focusing on the entire change, try breaking it down into smaller, more manageable steps. This can make the process feel less overwhelming.
Seek support: Surround yourself with people who can offer you support and encouragement. This can include friends, family, or a therapist or coach.
Find the opportunity in the change: Try to look at the change as an opportunity for growth and personal development. This can help you shift your perspective and focus on the potential benefits of the change.
Practice relaxation techniques: If you're feeling anxious or stressed, try practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. These can help you manage your anxiety and cope with the fear of change.
6. When you feel ready, begin a practice of self-analysis. Be willing to investigate your thoughts, emotions, and actions and honestly admit if you need to evolve your perspective. Once you've discovered your place in the present with discernment, the next step is taking real world action to make your inner change a reality. This will be a process as each step we make in personal growth and change require challenges along the way.
**Along this part it is beneficial to explore Joseph Campbell's model of The Hero's Journey.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'”
— Eleanor Roosevelt