When two realities collide

I was reading a blog today about how often management was based on fantasy and not reality, and it got me thinking. The trouble with the excellent ideas in this blog is that it is predicated on the premise that we well all share one common, objective reality. Daft as it seems that just isn’t so. Every single thing we experience comes through a set of filters that we have learned and developed over the years (I have mentioned a couple of them before here and here.)

For example, something happens (and it applies to absolutely everything, so it doesn’t matter what example I give).. say someone asks a question that I deem ‘stupid’. I hear that sound with my ears (they literally gather in the sound waves) and pass them up to the brain which unscrambles the noises into words that I learnt as a child. I gauge a myriad of things like who has said them, what I think about that person; how I feel about them, the context that we are in, tone of voice. These filter those words and help give them meaning. I will also run them by another series of ‘tests’ or ‘standards’, such as “Is this ethical?” (based of course on my own sense of morality and religion) “What previous experiences have I had with this person?” (good, bad, indifferent?) and I come up with conclusion “Daft question!” I may then either delete that information, effectively ‘unhearing’ it, or assume that this implies and insult and get cross.

Although this list is actually much longer and much more complex, hopefully you get the drift. So to take a crude but current example, I will get a very different response if I offered a pork sandwich to a Muslim in Iraq or a hungry American GI. They are likely to ascribe all sorts of motives to me making this offer ranging from “He is insulting the word of the prophet!” to “What a kind bloke!”

So the ‘reality’ we actually experience is inside our own brains, and it is only a representation, that we have created of what is ‘out there’.

I think this idea raises some really important issues and will follow this up in the near future, but meantime, I’d love to hear your stories of what happens when your reality is in conflict with someone else’s.

This article may also be of interest

“I reject your reality and substitute it for my own.”” Adam Savage

“Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals.” Oscar Wilde

8 Responses to “When two realities collide”

  1. Brian Freeston says:

    I think we would all agree that our experience has some relation to what we believe? I would suggest that our experiences are created by the beliefs we hold. The interesting thing is if we do not believe that and thus believe that our beliefs are created by our experiences (and therefore we are not in control of our lives) then that is what we will experience ( a lack of control – victimhood?).

    This is what we do – create beliefs to experience life. How do I define my identity? Well, it’s a combination of beliefs. And reality? What I believe it to be.
    Shared realities then are areas over which we have agreements and where we share common beliefs.

    So when you don’t share realities it becomes a battleground of beliefs beating each other up, until one comes out on top. The illusion is that the beliefs define the ‘I’. UNLESS you are aware that there is no absolute truth and that what we do as human beings is create in the medium of belief. The fact that the other might hold opposing beliefs does not mean that your belief is under threat.

    If you can really appreciate the other’s belief and know that an attack is an expression of their uncertainty in their own belief, then we will have – yes, wait for it, it’s as big as this – World Peace.

  2. I have to confess Brian that I am not certain that I/we know which way this cycle drives, or if it only moves in a single direction.

    I suspect that initially we are handed down our ‘beliefs’ which we test out as we experience reality. I think it takes quite a strong person to feel empowered to challenge these handed-down beliefs. However, we certainly need to evaluate them.

    I don’t know if believing the world is a safe place makes it so, but believing the opposite creates genuine fear, even if it is wrong! So I guess you could ask which is the more useful belief.

    I don’t know if you can just chose them though or if it is a more complex, more organic process…

  3. Brian Freeston says:

    Hi Richard,

    The wonderful thing about beliefs is that once you really start to believe in something (and I stress this is not an intellectual process – apart from the initial ‘choosing’ of the belief) that will in itself create ‘proof’ for your holding the belief. I am talking here about extended perception, ‘feeling’.

    Hence referring back to an earlier conversation – Hairdressers notice hairstyles, and all of a sudden silver VW Golf owners notice the world full of silver VWs etc.

    We are handed down our beliefs – by parents to start off. I maintain that part of good parenting is the ability not to instill fear but awareness. The difference means that from a very early age children grow with an innate sense of responsibility. And are thus more inclined to evaluate handed-down beliefs.

    But Richard, why would you have one rule of cause and effect about belief and reality leading to fear and not the other way around?
    The more people believe that the world is a safe place the more it is a safe place!

    But what about terrorism and nuclear devices?

    The use of both is created by fear. Fear that some beliefs (those of the perpetrators) are being threatened. Spilling blood for a belief is one way to create fear in the eyes of others who hold different beliefs and unquestioning obedience in those that hold similar beliefs.
    I facilitated some workshops in the Middle East in the early 90’s with Arabs and Israelis on belief management, and their experience was extraordinary – the change from victim-hood to responsibility was an honour to witness. The more this happens the more individuals’ reality coalesces to form larger shared realities and eventually beliefs held in mass-consciousness.

  4. “Richard, why would you have one rule of cause and effect about belief and reality leading to fear and not the other way around?” I most certainly wouldn’t! You are clearly doing some good work Brian (long may it continue!) I just am not sure of the average person’s ability to change beliefs without either some help or some evidence to support a different perspective.

  5. Brian Freeston says:

    OK it’s a good point. I think the only prerequisites you need to start this is to have an open mind and a willingness to look beyond your current beliefs. The evidence is easy – start with something very simple and everyday and as you grow in confidence and proof tackle the more difficult areas.

  6. Brian, I suspect this takes either:-
    1. A lot of courage or
    2. A strong motive, or
    3. A willing / adventourous soul

    However, Change is possible, and changing your beliefs to something postive, aligned adn empowering is hugely important

  7. Brian Freeston says:

    I’d tick all three Richard although 2 and 3 are the most common. Good blog.

  8. […] of course we all have our own personal picture of the world. We assume every one is looking at the same picture we have, but never trouble to check this (incorrect) assumption. “The least questioned […]

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