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BETTER VISION NOW
Improve Your Sight with the Renowned Bates Method
By CLARA A HACKETT, LAWRENCE GALTON, LAURA GLUSHA
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1983 Clara A. Hackett and Lawrence Galton
All rights reserved.
The Case for Hope
Two of every three adults, many of them young, and a sizable proportion of children as well, today are limping along with defective eyesight. Seemingly, the only practical resort for them is to wear glasses.
No medical man, no eyesight specialist, claims that eyeglasses are more than a useful kind of crutch. They offer symptomatic relief, allowing more acute vision when worn. But they do not cure visual defects, do not touch causes.
Eyeglasses have their inconveniences, of course, producing a change in appearance not always considered desirable and sometimes imposing restraints on activity. They are annoying when they steam and fog, and when they break and have to be replaced.
But there is something much more disconcerting about them.
If you have defective vision and have worn glasses for some years, chances are you've had several changes of lens, each time to a stronger prescription. Your sight now, unaided by glasses, may not be nearly as good as it was when you first started wearing them. Your natural vision, it would seem, is becoming worse instead of better.
"Glasses," as Dr. Frank D. Costenbader, a distinguished ophthalmologist, recently reminded the National Society for the Prevention of Blindness, "only help the present but not the future of the wearer." They do nothing to halt progressive deterioration of sight. Indeed, there are those who believe that their very use contributes to deterioration.
Are glasses the only possible answer?
Are the eyes so different from all other body organs that, when they fail to function properly, there is no cure, no other help than a mechanical aid?
And are the eyes, to begin with, so inherently weak, and here again so different from all other body organs, that they should fail to such a huge extent—fail for at least two thirds of all persons and at such an early age?
Happily, the answer to all these questions is—no.
A CHECK FOR YOURSELF
In an ordinary business card, punch pinholes about 3/16 of an inch apart so they make equilateral triangles, like this:
Remove your glasses and look about you. You don't see well, of course. For this check, deliberately pick out a number of objects that you see as blurs. Make certain that all are in a good light.
Now, hold the card up before your eyes and look through the pinholes at the blurred objects. Don't stare. Don't try hard. Just glance at the objects casually.
If you do this properly, you'll be surprised to find that now, as you look through the pinholes on the card, there is a considerable improvement in your vision. The objects are no longer blurs. If your vision loss has not been severe, they may be quite sharp and clear. Even with severe vision impairment, they are far less hazy.
What you have just done is a happy demonstration, first, that you have greater potential vision, a greater natural power of sight than you may have dreamed. It also demonstrates, even if to only a limited extent, why you have lost good vision and how you can win it back. For, probably without realizing it, in order to see at all through the pinholes you had to use your sight in a different way, abandoning several poor vision habits in favor of proper ones. For example, you had to centralize instead of spread and blur your vision. Your sight, in shifting, was made extremely mobile. Centralization and mobility, as it will become clear later in this book, are just two of a number of vital habits that help to assure good vision.
It has long been a commonly accepted theory that when nearsightedness, farsightedness and other refractive errors occur, the trouble must lie in a defective lens or in other structural abnormalities of the eye. The solution has been to "correct for," or compensate for, the defect with glasses.
But there is another theory—and the pinhole check helps demonstrate it—that offers more hope. It holds that visual loss is not, invariably, the result of a fault in the lens or of a defect anywhere else in the structure of the eye. It proposes, instead, as we'll see in greater detail in Chapter II, that the trouble may be functional rather than organic. To put it another way, the eye itself may be perfect but use of it not; a major fault, and sometimes the only fault, may lie in poor visual habits, which were either learned originally or acquired later because of emotional problems or stress situations. As a natural corollary, this theory holds that correcting poor habits may stop further deterioration of already poor sight, and bring about correct rather than "corrected-for" vision.
How does this theory actually work out in practice? What can you expect to accomplish for your own sight if you are willing to do a few simple things each day?
If you have just tried the pinhole check, the improvement you noted represents your immediate potential sight—what your natural visual ability may be, unaided by glasses or by peering through pinholes, but looking about normally—in the near future, perhaps within six months or even less. Many people are able to double their sight—and some even triple it—within twelve weeks. The time required to achieve your immediate visual potential will depend not only on the amount of practice but on the extent of sight loss with which you start.
For example, if you are nearsighted, with a doctor's diagnosis of 20/40 vision now, your immediate potential may be 20/20—a doubling of your vision—and you may achieve it within twelve weeks. But if your sight now is only 20/400, one twentieth of normal vision, and your immediate potential is 20/50, in twelve weeks you may double your visual ability to 20/200, or even better, but it will take more months of practice before you can hope to achieve your immediate potential. Once you gain ground to this point, you may go on with further practice to achieve your ultimate potential of still greater, possibly even normal, vision.
For farsighted people, the outlook is the same. Suppose that, now, unaided by glasses, you can read, let us say, only the title of this book, but through the pinholes are able to read this print. Your immediate potential, which you are likely to achieve in a few months, will be the ability to read book print with your unaided eyes. At that point, you may be able to read, through the pinholes, the tiny print found in a later chapter, an indication of what your ultimate potential visual ability may be with further practice. These estimates are based on results achieved by almost 15,000 people with visual losses of various types who have retrained their vision under the supervision of myself and some sixty instructors. As I write this, I have before me the records of 2,857 with whom I worked personally.
The total figure of 2,857 includes some who had only a few lessons and stopped. It includes people who did not want to work for better sight—even those who did not want to see better. (If it seems impossible to imagine a person who does not want better sight, consider, as representative, an auto mechanic with such great vision loss that he has been classed as "occupationally blind" for ten years, and for whom regaining sight means loss of a pension and the need to return to work in a competitive field where he would have to learn newer skills. Although he may give lip service to the idea of trying to regain vision, he makes no real effort.)
My 2,857 students ranged in age from three to ninety-two years. Their occupations: machinists, stenographers, salesmen, lawyers, engineers, business executives, insurance agents, schoolteachers, ministers, housewives, accountants, priests, nuns, doctors and dentists.
There were 1,584 nearsighted people, or myopes, with vision ranging from 20/30 to 20/1000. The majority had 20/400, or one-twentieth of normal sight. Five hundred sixty-nine regained at least 20/40, or half normal sight; 210 achieved 20/70; 163 attained 20/100 or one-fifth normal sight; 211 improved to 20/200 or one-tenth of normal sight. In other cases there was lesser or only temporary improvement. All of those who achieved 20/20 vision could dispense with glasses as could most of those who gained 20/40, the sight required for passing drivers' tests in the states of New York, California and Washington. Most of the others had glasses prescribed for them that were from one to four diopters weaker than the pair being worn when they started their lessons.
Three hundred forty-eight of my students were farsighted; 116 discarded glasses entirely; 194 could wear weaker glasses for reading; 38 made no enduring improvement.
There were 248 bifocal wearers. Of these 84 discarded glasses entirely; 138 were able to substitute a light pair of reading glasses for their bifocals. The remaining 26 had no enduring benefit.
There were 179 cross-eyed students. Seventy-one have achieved straight eyes and also have good fusion; 96 have straight eyes and good fusion except that there is a slight deviation from the norm when they are ill, emotionally upset or fatigued. Twelve had no enduring improvement.
In all these cases, original diagnosis was made by physicians. Although it has been true that the medical profession has had reservations about the value of vision retraining, an increasing number of physicians in recent years have become impressed with the results. While some take the attitude: "It can do no harm," many others now believe it may do much good. Whether or not they express this publicly, they encourage many patients to try re-education.
I have had the privilege of working closely with many physicians more recently, not only in cases of refractive loss but also of serious eye disorders.
It must be emphasized that the vision retraining techniques presented in this book do not constitute a panacea. They are not intended to replace medical care. It is essential that people with actual diseases or growths in the eye seek medical aid. Self-diagnosis is never advisable. Only a physician is qualified to detect and identify disease.
In recent years, doctors who have encouraged patients with such serious disorders as glaucoma and cataracts to undertake vision retraining have found that astonishing improvement often occurs.
Thus far, I have worked with 312 people with cataracts. Of these, 278 had improvements ranging from 10 per cent better sight to complete normalcy, while only 34 had no noticeable lasting improvement. It is impossible to state how many had complete clearing of their cataracts for not all followed my request to return for medical re-examination; their increase of sight was proof enough for them that their cataracts were gone.
Forty of my recent students have had glaucoma. Of these, 11 gained greater field of vision and increased sight; 18 had a lowering of tension according to their doctors; 11 had no great lasting improvement, although 5 do report less pain and discomfort.
Fifty-seven persons with retinitis pigmentosa have had lessons. Of these, only 2 achieved 20/20 or normal sight; however, 38 had their field of vision and acuity helped appreciably even to the extent of driving a car again; 17 had no lasting benefit.
Of 31 persons with progressive sight losses from such diseases as retinitis, conical cornea, choreoretinitis, 10 have stopped the progression; they have been able to continue working at regular occupations, are no longer fearful of becoming incapacitated. One conical cornea case obtained 20/20 sight.
There have been worthwhile results in vision losses due to other serious problems and even in some blind people.
Blind persons must be classified according to whether they have only light perception, object perception, or more useful sight but are still considered "occupationally blind," or blind within the legal definition.
Of the 8 with only light perception who have had lessons, 1 is now working at his regular occupation, 4 others now have object perception. Three have had no improvement. Of 14 who had some object perception to begin with, 8 now have useful vision and are no longer "blindish." Six have had no lasting gain of sight. Of the 34 who had been considered occupationally blind, 16 are now working while 8 others have had increased sight, Ten have not improved appreciably.
No less important than improving vision defects is their prevention in the first place. Methods selected from those incorporated in this book are used in an eye-training program that many Seattle parochial schools have adopted. The program, under the direction of Dominican nuns who were trained by me at Seattle University, has shown its value in preserving and strengthening the sight of children.
HOW YOU WILL IMPROVE YOUR VISION
You will attain better vision not by long, complicated, vigorous exercises or by trying to bully your eyes into seeing better.
On the contrary, the whole emphasis will be on making vision effortless.
The very first step will be to achieve relaxation of the eyes. It is safe to say that you will find the relaxation techniques pleasurable. Moreover, they are likely to produce a highly desirable incidental benefit—relaxation throughout the body and in the mind. Relaxation not only will make your eyes feel rested but will provide the needed opening for establishing new habits.
To establish these habits, a certain number of drills will be necessary. They will be drills in fusion, in increasing mobility of sight, in producing centralized vision and in other proper habits of seeing. You will find them simple and easy to do. They are not exercises.
But a major emphasis will be on making the vision work a part of all your daily activities.
All of us, however busy, have almost limitless opportunities to integrate practice with our daily activities—if practice can be casual, if it can be easily and unobtrusively accomplished. You will find a great variety of techniques for such practice.
You will find that you will be able to practice better vision techniques in virtually every activity during the day —in walking, riding public conveyances, shaving, eating, watching movies and TV, playing cards, reading, writing, conversation, listening to music, dancing. The practice will not interfere with your enjoyment of these activities; in many, it will heighten it.
It is difficult to overcome bad habits and establish good ones unless one can be comfortable in the process. All of the techniques you will find in this book can be accomplished without discomfort. You need not be afraid that you must live entirely without glasses. You will go without them as much as you can—at first, for short periods only. Having used glasses for years, you cannot discard them at once. But as you progress, you will find it easy to dispense with them for increasingly long periods.
You will find your vision improving almost from day to day and you will be able to note your progress and to gain a great deal of encouragement from it.
You will not need to continue forever with the drills, except in retinitis pigmentosa and glaucoma. However, you may find that you will want to continue with a number of them because of the values they have outside of vision itself—in helping to relieve nervous tension and to heighten your awareness of the things going on around you, for example. Although you may have been using your eyes badly for twenty, thirty and even forty or fifty years, the techniques in this book, because they are so varied and can be used so effectively throughout the day instead of just in short formal periods of drilling, will establish new and proper habits of vision in a relatively short time. And, because of their all-day-long use, once such new habits have been established, the conscious techniques you have repeated over and over again day after day will be necessary no longer. The new habits will be just that—habits and almost entirely automatic.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?
Defects in vision vary not only in kind but in degree. So does aptitude in following directions. So, too, motivation— the depth of desire to achieve improvement which determines faithfulness in trying for it.
One of my students, a nearsighted young man (20/200), driven by a great desire to pass a Navy examination within a brief period of time, was able, by virtually giving up all other activity and concentrating on his eyesight, to bring his vision to 20/40 within a few weeks and pass the test. I have seen many other people with various types of vision deficiencies who, with sufficient desire, equaled this performance.
Most people, of course, progress in more leisurely fashion.
Excerpted from BETTER VISION NOW by CLARA A HACKETT, LAWRENCE GALTON, LAURA GLUSHA. Copyright © 1983 Clara A. Hackett and Lawrence Galton. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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