Is reality an Illusion? This was a question I set out to ponder in response to a critic of my website who said that they absolutely wouldn’t subscribe to anything that described ‘reality’ as an ‘illusion’.
Within therapy I often reframe a ‘reality’ of ‘stuckness’ within a client to a new ‘reality’ of ‘growth and possibility’. Believing that ‘reality’ is an ‘illusion’ helps me in so many ways turn people’s lives around, including my own.
Since that conversation, I began to ponder reasons why I totally believe that ‘reality’ is not singular or factual. In fact the only ‘reality’ I believe in now is that I am not entirely sure that ‘reality’ actually exists. Have I gone barmy? No in my experience believing in multiple realities can actually help you stay sane.
The Oxford Dictionary describes ‘reality’ as
‘the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them’
However I am not sure that these can always be separated, how ‘real’ does a dream feel at times, in recent medical interventions blind people given sight can see a chair but not understand it as a chair, there seems to be so many times when perception and ‘illusion’ is fundamental to us creating ‘reality’.
My travels across many continents challenged many ‘illusions’. India a case in point lead me to question what I believed to be ‘reality’ on a nearly a daily basis. One day, my now husband and I, entered a queue, for what I can’t quite remember, suffice to say it was along a red, sandy track that snaked out into the heat haze of far away. It seemed we would be there a very long while. However we were tourists and in no rush, the people watching in times like these was always a joy. Half the fun of India was the getting there, sometimes as enjoyable to me as the destination.
We soon observed that instead of joining at the end of the queue, many new arrivals tried to push in at the front. They then had, what we thought, was a heated conversation with the people there, finally gave up and pushed in further back down the queue where the resistance wasn’t so high. This happened time and time again. Eventually my husband said to an English speaking Indian in front of us, ‘don’t people get fed up with people pushing in?’ The reply was something I will never forget.
‘Oh they’re not pushing in, they go to the front of the queue to ask the people there how long the queue has taken them. As a group they have a discussion about who has what to do that day – do they have to look after an elderly person? Do they have to get to the market before closing? Do they have a responsibility or deadline to meet etc etc? They then discuss how this compares with the needs of the other people in the queue? It is then agreed what would be the maximum amount of time they could afford to be queueing for and approximate the best place to enter the queue.’
No one was angry with this arrangement as all those with restricted time did the same thing.
In that instant my ‘reality’ of what was going on was blown apart. I was truly inspired by the ability of total strangers to discuss amongst themselves this decision, without becoming self-absorbed and defensively emotional – Mass co-operation with minimum rage, amazing! I wondered how many ‘illusions’ had lead me to perceive actions as inconsiderate that in another ‘reality’ may be surpassing my own understanding of fairness – Complete opposing ‘realities’ in one event – How fascinating! I considered then the illogical reasoning behind a single ‘reality’. Little did I know how useful this understanding was to prove to me throughout my life.
Within therapy this concept of ‘reality’ being a constructed ‘illusion’, is key to being able to help people. It is quite possible that two people could have an identical experience and where one of them will grow from it and the other will be traumatised. Cognitive Hypnotherapy helps you move from a point of view that is painful and holding you back to a more positive ‘reality’ by reframing these events to help you more forward with a more nurturing ‘reality’.
E.g Reframing the ‘reality’ that sees mistakes as failures into a ‘reality’ that sees mistakes as necessary feedback opportunities, if far more beneficial. Mistakes are necessary for us to progress.
Similarly a prognosis can be viewed as a guess not a deadline drawn in the sand (exemplified so wonderfully by Prof Stephen Hawking who outlived his prognosis by something like 40 years). Yet a prognosis to some can feel like ‘fact’ an immovable brick wall. If this has happened to you it may be worth considering in what ways believing in this rigidity is helping you? You might be amazed how therapy can help you find a more positive path even in what seems the darkest of situations.
Colin’s Dictionary state for the definition of a ‘Reality Check’
‘If you say that something is a reality check for someone, you mean that it makes them recognize the truth about a situation, especially about the difficulties involved in something they want to achieve.’
But why would we focus solely on a singular ‘reality’ that heightens the difficulties in something we want to achieve? I believe our subconscious generally does this automatically for us, because it is rarely hard to see the difficulties that put the brakes on our lives.
Personally, I would find far more benefit from an ‘Aspiration Achievement check’ to a ‘Reality Check’ any day!
We all have our own ‘illusions’ drawn from the people we meet and our experiences in life. These differences are multifaceted and lead, in my view, to endless possibilities of viewing ‘reality’. If ‘reality’ really exists, I like to think we can make our own.
Beliefs may lead one person to believe in Cognitive Hypnotherapy and one to not and I think that’s fine. But I would always hope that whatever ‘reality’ you do believe in, it allows you to be happy, and flexible, it enables you to learn to move forward, change, reassess and do no harm to yourself or to others.
Fortunately for me as a believer in multiple ‘realities’, I feel this flexibility allows me to be the Master of my own destination, it gives me scope to change my mind and I would say choose to believe in whatever ‘illusion’ keeps me moving forward. To realise that when times are dark that there must be an alternative ‘reality’ out there to find. This is my model of the world, which has been created through my personal experiences of having my concepts of ‘reality’ challenged through living, working and travelling with different cultures and within different environments across the globe.
Believing in ‘reality’ as a perceptual ‘illusion’ has lead me to love and believe in the usefulness of Cognitive Hypnotherapy to help people turn corners in their life. In my ‘reality’ and the ‘realities’ of many I have treated, this has been a wonderful thing and I am therefore so happy it is part of my world.
If you are interested in perceptual ‘reality’ you might want to see Brian Lipton’s Biology of Belief, the link is on my resource page. Brian Lipton PHD, A Cellular Biologist gives scientific reasoning to why ‘reality’ and who we are is created by our perceptions.
https://hackspirit.com/illusion-reality-scientific-proof-everything-energy-reality-isnt-real/ Find out how believing in multiple realities can help you stay sane.