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Year : 1955  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 69-72

Mental state of the blind

New York (U.S.A.) and Meran (Italy)

Correspondence Address:
Adalbert Fuchs
New York (U.S.A.) and Meran (Italy)

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How to cite this article:
Fuchs A. Mental state of the blind. Indian J Ophthalmol 1955;3:69-72

How to cite this URL:
Fuchs A. Mental state of the blind. Indian J Ophthalmol [serial online] 1955 [cited 2023 Dec 8];3:69-72. Available from: https://journals.lww.com/ijo/pages/default.aspx/text.asp?1955/3/4/69/33582

Of the five senses we have, vision seems to us the most precious and loss of sight the most tragic thing which can happen to us. Man seems surrounded by frightening darkness, sun does not shine anymore and moving around seems impossible.

Is darkness really so frightening? For the Eskimo for instance, darkness in wintertime has no horror. On the contrary, they are looking forward to it. We read, that this is the time of feasts, the time of travel and of visiting friends.

It is astonishing that not seeing at all for a certain time is stood quite easily. The oculist often has to bandage the eyes of a patient for two weeks or more but I never heard a complaint about it from the patient. That is not to be wondered at after a cosmetic operation like strabismus or a plastic of the lid. Even in a serious case like detachment of the retina, in which both eyes have to be bandaged for weeks to get absolute rest and care for the eyes, one never heard a complaint about not being able to see. Of course, in these cases the patient has hopes that he will see soon again.

But it is also astonishing in completely blind people how they never are unhappy persons; how nearly always their psychologic disposition is good, how gay they often are, never show a sad face and are completely resigned to their fate.

There is quite a different condition if a patient is afraid to become blind. I have experienced it several times, how fear of getting blind has driven a per­son to suicide. That is the period in which the doctor has to exert his! greatest psychologic influence. A completely blind person has resigned himself to his fate and nearly never thinks about suicide.

How blind people are not only able to live contentedly but are really happy I experienced for the first time in China. An old Chinese, who was blind for a few years was brought to me because his family wanted his senile cataract operated upon. I explained to the old man, one could help him with surgery and after 14 days he would be able to see again. The old gentleman asked "Why should I see?" I said he could then walk around and admire the land­scape. He replied : "I go every day for a walk with my grandchildren and the landscape I know already." Then I suggested that he would be able to read again. The old man answered, that his grandchildren read everything for him aloud and he does not have to bother with it himself. But he could see his grandchildren, was my answer. Then he said to me : "I pass my hand over their faces and then I can see them too." So I advised him to go home again and to enjoy his happy life.

It will be said of course that the attitude of this blind is typical for the stoicism of the Asiatics, typical for the mood of the Chinese. But that is not so. There are many cases and especially ones which show, that the time of complete blindness was more beautiful than the time after a successful opera­tion when sight is restored again. I will speak here about such cases.

The owner of a hotel in the Near East was successfully operated on cataract, after two years of blindness. During those two years he never complained. Later on he saw, that his employees were dishonest, that his wife, inspire of her age had a liaison with a much younger fellow and that his two daughters behaved badly. So he was not happy to see the world around him and complained now, that it was much nicer for him when he was still blind and could not see all these awful things. He did not become happier.

Another case was interesting. An old Professor for Classics and Member of the Academy of Science was operated on cataract but unsuccessfully; he was blind for two years. He came to me, I operated the other eye and he had afterwards excellent vision and could read smallest print. Once I asked him if he was not very happy and content to be able to do his beloved work again. The old Professor meant, that it was very nice to see again and to work again but the time of blindness was the happiest of his life. Very much astonished, I asked how that could be possible? "Well" he said, "I found myself; I was obliged to think, to mediate, to get on terms with myself and to concentrate. That brought peace and happiness for me". As the Professor was also a poet I urged him several times to express his feelings and thoughts which he had during and after blindness in a poem, but the many years he still lived I was not able to get him to do it.

There was in Shanghai an Institute for Chinese blind children. Once I asked the Director about the case histories of these children but he had no statistics. He suggested that I should examine those 84 children myself and make the diagnosis. During this examination I found a 19-year-old boy, who had lived since his sixth year in this institution and who had some light perception. I suggested to try to restore some sight by surgery. This was done by cutting a tight membrane which had closed the pupil. A few weeks later the young man could not only count fingers but also read small print in my English notebook. That was not only a good result of the surgery but also a most surprising and remarkable medical phenomenon. The boy was blind when he was six years old, at a time in which he had not yet learned to read neither Chinese nor other letters. During blindness he was taught Boston Script, Latin letters, by touch and could read this script for the blind. But now he could see with his eye such letters and read them which he had never seen before, which he merely learned by touch. It shows that there is apparently a near relation between the centre of touch, optic memory and centre of seeing, a fact, which, as far as I know, was never before observed.

That case gave rise to great excitement in Shanghai. Many reporters came to the Institute and the young man was shown to them. Newspapers wrote long articles about it and a lot of money came through this publicity to the Institute.

Later on came the reverse of the case. As I returned after six months to Shanghai the Director told me, that the young man insisted now that he could not see any more. But the Director was sure that this was a lie and that the boy said so only for other reasons. So we stepped out of the building and we found the young man, the so-called blind, crawling on all fours on the big lawn. We approached quietly to see what he did. He had little cages for crickets nearby and searched for them in the grass. As the Director spoke, he jumped up, wrung his hands and complained how unhappy he was, that he cannot see any more and is not able to find any crickets. But we had observed him doing just that when he did not hear or see us coming. The boy certainly had some vision but had found out now that there was danger for him because he would lose his easy and pleasant existence in this home when he saw again. It was clear, that sooner or later he would have to find some work and would not be treated anymore as a blind boy. For this reason he pretended not to see.

As last case I want to report about a man who suffered a most cruel experience but to the casual observer nothing could be noted on his face or in his behaviour. He became blind in World War I by a mine explosion, was five years in an institution for the Blind and married the nurse there. He came in 1922 to consult me in the Clinic in Vienna. I proposed surgery for one eye and after it he could go around alone, could read and write again. 1939 I visited him in the South-Tyrol, where he owned an inn. He told me, that he was now quite comfortably off only he divorced his wife because she was not pretty enough. He could work in his business very well and even made some rock-climbing in the Dolomites. 1955 I wanted to visit him again but could not find him on the old place. Finally I tracked him down and he told one the following: the Germans called him up in World War II inspite of his seeing only with one eye and cataract spectacles. They kept him in the Army even after an oculist had seen him. He refused to take part in the war and went underground. Many months he lived hidden in a cellar and finally in an empty factory building. He hurt his eye there in the darkness, got apparently an ulcer of the cornea and could not see for weeks a doctor. When the Germans left the part of his country, he was completely blind. Not the slightest complaint came from him when he narrated his own dreadful story; he sat gay and happy for an hour with me and chatted. Not a sign of shock, not a trace of sadness was visible and it seemed he had abso­lutely come to terms with his fate. Peace and happiness reigned in his soul.

This man who had become blind twice told me the mental disposition of a man, who had just become blind, is greatly influenced by the fact if he gets a pension like the War Blind or rot. If fear of hunger and need is abated, even by a small pension only, the blind starts easier his new life and the stimulus to work and to improve his living condition is considerably increased.

How is it that blind people are mostly gay, even-tempered, peaceable and content whereas deaf ones are often aggressive, unhappy and malcontent? Deafness isolates man from his environment, from his fellowmen much more than blindness. They feel loneliness much deeper. The blind ones seem to become introverts, to come to their own inner self, learn to meditate and to think deeply and therefore come easier to peace of mind and soul.


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