What Is Reality And Can It Be Changed?
“This is what really happened.” “Get a grip on reality.” “This IS my reality.” Statements like these give rise to the question, “What is reality?”
The answer to that question comes from the human brain and how it operates. Fortunately for us, the very way it operates also gives us the key to changing our reality.
You are subjected to over 2 million bits of information per second via your five senses being sight, sound, feeling, smell and taste. This is substantially more than you can consciously process. To protect you from mental overwhelm, a part of your brain known as the reticular activating system (RAS) quickly chooses which bits of the information go into your conscious mind and which bits go into your unconscious mind. It does this through a process called filtering. This filtering process can be either empowering or disempowering.
Your brain likes to create order out of the chaos of information it is bombarded with and to make links between information so that your life makes more sense.
The RAS uses the following techniques to filter the massive amounts of information you receive and create the filtered down version of reality your mind can cope with.
- Deletion: The RAS deletes large amounts of data to avoid overloading our conscious brain. This process has an enormous impact upon the way you see reality as your reality cannot contain anything that your unconscious mind has deleted.
- Distortion: The RAS distorts information so you can imagine, interpret and place meanings upon information you receive. You use this process to recognise people you haven’t seen for many years even though they have aged.
- Generalisation: This RAS filter organises information into themes or maps to allow us to remember and categorise what we have learned. This filter is also the one that leads us to make generalisations with our thoughts such as ‘all dogs are dangerous’ or ‘ you can never trust women’ or ‘I could never learn that’. It is your generalisations that combine to make up your belief systems.
Each one of us has a RAS that filters in a unique way which is why we all see the same world so differently.
You chose your unconscious filters as a result of your upbringing, environment and significant emotional experiences. Your unconscious filters include your values, beliefs, attitudes, memories, decisions and language.
Our Interpretation Determines Our Reality
It is our interpretation of the facts, the decisions our brain makes of inputs around us and our internal hardwiring that determines how we perceive reality. For us, as humans, we will probably never be able to determine true reality; the only reality we will ever see is the one our brain filters for us.
You can probably already see that because we all sort differently through different filters, we each have a different version of reality. What is real for you is not real for me and vice versa. This raises some interesting questions about what is real doesn’t it?
Having filters is like wearing glasses with dark stripes on the lenses. You can clearly see some things and other things you cannot see at all. Your filters (the stripes on your lenses) affect your ability to get a full and clear picture of what is going on around you. Assume there is a solitary tree in a field on a partly cloudy day. Five different people each wearing their own set of striped glasses see the tree. The different perspectives they each took upon the same situation were:
- Reality #1 – I see sunshine. I love sunny days.
- Reality #2 – I see hope for the world.
- Reality #3 – I see only the clouds and coming rain and know my day will now be ruined.
- Reality #4 – I see my insignificance compared to nature.
- Reality #5 – I see somewhere nice to sit and read a book.
- Reality #6 – I see evidence of mankind destroying the forests that were once in this area.
Understanding that reality as you see it is really just a function of the way your brain has sorted information, opens you up to the possibility of having a different reality by changing the way your brain filters. Here are some examples of how changing a filter can change your life:
- Graham had been raised in a rich family that was always fighting. His best friend was raised in a poor family surrounded by love and harmony. Based on his childhood experiences, Graham believed that wealth equalled disharmony and decided that wealthy people did not have good relationships. Although he was very successful financially he could not maintain a long-term relationship. He came to understand that his belief was not reality and changed it. He is still wealthy and now has a long-term loving relationship.
- Erica grew up with ‘hippy’ parents who lived a self sustaining lifestyle on a small block of land in the country. She was taught not to value material possessions because of their detrimental effect upon the earth. Through a chance meeting Erica became friends with a very wealthy woman. As a result of her friendship, Erica changed her beliefs about material possessions and now values the prestige she feels she achieves from them. She now has a high paying corporate position and is devoting time and energy to climbing the corporate ladder.
Our reality is a function of how we have hard wired our brain. Understanding that this is what it is empowers and opens us up to the possibility of a new reality in our lives. This is truly empowering.
(Based on an article I have published in ezine articles)