What is reality?

You may not realize it, but you are on a journey right now. The journey is your life and you are navigating this journey using a map. That map represents your reality. It is created as you move along your life’s journey based on your experiences. As you experience different things, you form beliefs and values, and learn to perceive your world in particular ways, thus creating the map that you follow. And the way you perceive your world creates your reality.

The map is not the territory
But here is the thing. The map is not the territory! Your reality is not necessarily “real,” except to you. Your perceptions of any particular situation, person or event may be vastly different than those of anybody else experiencing the same things, in the same place, at the same time. Since each of us creates our own reality through our perceptions we can say that there as many different individual realities as there are individuals… and each of those realities may be as flawed as the other.

What does this mean!?
One of the consequences of our flawed realities is sometimes we end up in conflict with others around us. Take the healthcare debate as an example. The healthcare system in the US is what it is… so why is there so much confusion around whether and how to fix it? Some may claim that a great deal of the confusion is a result of disinformation by one or the other, or both, political parties, or by special interest groups, etc. etc.

While it may be true that there is some disinformation being introduced to the debate, I contend that there would be equally as many passionate opinions on the topic if everybody had complete and accurate information.

Why? Because we would not interpret that complete and accurate information in the same ways. Our individual beliefs, values and perceptions would serve to create realities that differ significantly from others’ realities. Many would embrace the notion of a public system despite the costs, while others would decry it because of the costs… even if the costs of such a system were agreed by everyone.

How can we overcome our reality?
The good news is that we don’t have to accept or be a slave to the realities we create for ourselves. Once you realize that your reality isn’t the only reality you can learn to change it. Doing either requires us to have belief flexibility, or the ability to challenge and modify our beliefs to enable us to accept differing views of reality. Essentially, we need to be able to change or remove the filters that create our realities so we can see and take advantage of alternative possibilities.

By developing flexibility of beliefs we are able to adapt to the world around us in positive ways, rather than attempting to mold the world to fit our own belief system. When we learn to view the world around us with acceptance we create more accurate maps of reality, and open ourselves to more and better experiences and opportunities.

Belief flexibility should not be confused with being non committal, “wishy washy,” or willing to believe anything. Indeed, allowing for flexibility in beliefs enables us to participate in deeper introspection and participate in our own process of growing and evolving as purposeful beings.

When we accept this process we become stronger individuals through our flexibility of beliefs as we are better able to entertain possibilities of reality that were previously shut off from us due to the filters of our previously rigid belief systems. We are able to perceive our environment more accurately as these filters are removed and are less prone to being victimized by “spin” and dogma that others may use to control or direct our thinking because we are able to objectively analyze what is being presented to us and make informed decisions about what we should believe or how we should act in any given situation.

Developing belief flexibility
There are a number of ways to develop flexibility of beliefs. Some common methods are NLP, hypnotherapy, and various forms of psychotherapy. Many times we are forced to challenge our own beliefs when we are faced with situations or questions that cause cognitive dissonance. This happens when we are presented with a situation that directly contradicts our beliefs, causing us to question the validity of that belief. We are forced to either modify the belief that is being challenged, or accept a distorted reality.

In terms of developing belief flexibility individually, I find that setting aside periods for deep introspection and self-reflection is most useful. This time can be spent in some form of meditation, journaling or simply reflecting on the days events and how I responded to certain situations.

I personally practice a combination of all of the above methods, although I do not use each daily. As an intern working towards licensure as a therapist I make use of regular therapy sessions myself once a week, and I meditate and journal daily. When I have a particular belief I feel I need to question or assess I may use NLP or hypnotherapy techniques as well.

If you are new to the idea of developing belief flexibility I would recommend beginning with a daily meditation and journaling. You can make great progress by using these methods to identify the beliefs that have served as filters on your experiences, and question them with alternative plausible interpretations. Over time this will become easier for you, and ultimately almost second nature. You will be amazed at how much more of “reality” you actually see.

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