The Importance Of A Willingness To Perceive Reality

There is always one key factor that pops up again and again, throughout my experiences as a therapist, during conversations with people about psychology, and in my head when quietly observing a person’s “patterns”.

But first, just to introduce a few concepts.

Everyone looks at the world differently, and appreciating that is a massive step towards being a balanced, rational person. It allows you to accept peoples individual differences, rather than think “you don’t agree with me, therefore you’re wrong”, which describes a disturbingly high amount of peoples attitudes.

It leads to the attitude of having to control nature rather than flow with it, to bend the world to fit with an imagined set of expectations. People want to see the world as they want it to be, not as it is. Anything to the contrary is distorted, deleted or denied, anything that reinforces it is welcomed with open arms. Of course, nature doesn’t give a shit, and will gladly break down those walls when they became brittle enough, and this is usually the point of a “breakdown”.

This is the whole “the map is not the territory” thing, the failure to grasp of which lies at the heart of most mental illness.

But anyway, the main thing I was alluding to at the start is not the perception of reality, but just the willingness to perceive it. Are you going to irrationally defend what you want to believe, ignoring evidence to the contrary, or are you going to pay more attention to that evidence to learn something new? Are you going to stick to your negative belief systems that keep you hemmed inside of your life, or are you going to test them by wondering what it would be like if those beliefs weren’t true?

Basically, are you going to be willing to give up your bullshit to take further steps closer to reality, or choose to live with your bullshit forever more?

Because really, most of what people believe to be true (whether it be about their potential, how lovable they are, whether other people are threatening, whats scary etc) is bullshit. If it wasn’t, it would be a fact, and not a belief.

When talking to people about things, I can sometimes sense a “zone” where their irrational defensiveness kicks in. It wouldn’t be a problem for me to just avoid it. The problem arises where I’m invited to help them reinforce the belief. So if a typical conversation goes along the lines of people being horrible, or society being rubbish, or there being no options left anymore, I’m caught in a pressure point where if I don’t agree, they may become anxious and I know they’ll start putting me in that same bracket of hostility (“oh, you’re just like everyone else!” etc). Instead I’ll start challenging and eroding the edges, by asking incisive questions so that they are forced to corner themselves into facing their own irrationality head on (e.g. reminding them of a time that directly goes against what they are asking me to agree with). Whilst the effects of this can be powerful in the short term (“yeah, I suppose you’re right”), the overwhelming power of the mind to do what it can to protect what it wants to believe will ensure that its quickly forgotten about. A few days later, it will be the case of same bullshit, different day.

2 Comments

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  • I think your method of gradual erosion is the way to go, particularly if someone has spent years constructing and reinforcing their beliefs. Just because a person’s mind closes back up, it doesn’t mean that the cracks aren’t beginning to show. I’ve seen this in myself and in a couple of friends; a gentle chipping away over months, or, well, actually it’s generally years, has resulted in a completely different outlook. And at the risk of exhausting this metaphor, it’s allowed enough time for something else/a different perception to have been built.

    I’m sure there are some people for whom (or even just some occasions where) the ‘Red Pill’ or ‘Road to Damascus’ sudden enlightenment succeeds, but mostly I would imagine that, frustrating as it is to wait, this sort of brutal change is usually too much of a shock.

    • Hi Saffron, thanks for your comment. I agree with you. I think the difference that splits people are those who have a willingness to gradually improve over time, and those who gradually reinforce their negative beliefs more and more. If you have the self-awareness to know where your weaknesses and self imposed limitations are, then thats really half the battle, the changing bit is just a follow-on journey that you can make progress on step by step. Lacking self-awareness isn’t a problem either, because it can be gained. But denying or actively defending against the reality of the situation is where the problem is – and thats a tough wall to erode (or at least, the solution can be difficult to find).

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