The Shape of Reality
I want to start with the good news. Everything from religion and theology to spirituality to quantum physics to new-age-hoopla-which-targets-teenage-girls-and-disenchanted-quarter-life-crisis-women-(and-me) like “The Secret” suggests that we can influence reality at a deeper level than just the physical. The old adage “be careful what you wish for” comes to mind. Right. Now, whether you want to wax metaphysical or keep it strictly in the realms of observable behaviour, I agree with Goethe that when we commit to making something happen, providence moves too. Possibly once you’ve decided a course of action you subconsciously begin to enact behaviours that will realise the goal. Or perhaps the underlying energetic soup of the universe begins to shape itself around your new ideal. I personally think it’s both. After spending the last couple of years surrendering my livelihood and wellbeing more and more into faith that the universe will reorganise itself around the way I choose to live my life, I currently live exactly the life I envisaged for myself. I am by no means suggesting life is perfect, though – therein lies the crux of this essay.
Ok, let’s park it there and come back to manifestation because I’m actually much more interested in the day to day way in which we perpetuate our internal view of reality. Not how to get what we want, but why our days end up the same, even when we introduce some new whiz-bang way of thinking into the mix.
Jigsaw piece: what we believe creates our reality.
Whatever our personal pathology, we perpetuate it in many ways, like constant streams of negative self-talk (conscious: “I’d really like to be a writer”; negative self-talk: “what, you? A writer? Don’t be ridiculous – you can’t string a sentence together! And how would you pay the bills? No one would pay you for your self-absorbed drivel!”), or unconscious (learned) patterns of behaviour that usually run counter to whatever newly constructed positive mantra we’ve picked up lately (thanks, Tony Robbins!). Like how that time when you skinned your knee and cried and your dad gave you a look of disdain (he didn’t appreciate the crying on his one day off a week): “you’re a big boy now, you don’t cry anymore.” Ok, Dad! Time to start suppressing those emotions and take on the new role of emotionless and unmoveable!
The whole system works in layers of dishonesty, though, and the worst is the stuff you don’t even know is there. Personally, I have only recently uncovered a deep and profound belief that I am fundamentally alone. Apart from society at large. That people are only passing through and there is no longevity in any relationship I have. Sooner or later, everyone moves on for some reason or another. I’m going to come back to this, as it’s central to my discussion, but I wanted to point out that I have had to move through layer after layer of onion skin before I was able to really understand and expose this inner truth.
We wonder why positive mantras don’t work, as we push it on top of these layers of negativity for a couple of weeks, see no change, and give it up. This appears to be because our tiny reasoning mind – a mere pinprick on the map of consciousness – cannot easily compete with the vast ocean of negative self perception, bullshit self talk and learned roles we play in order to be part of society (get the job, get the girl, have friends, fit in). Also, a lack of consistency and good ol’-fashioned “sticking with it” – I’ll come back to this, too.
Jigsaw piece: small boat of positive change on the seven seas of negativity.
So, let’s take a closer look at my belief that ultimately I am and will be alone. That everyone in my life is just passing through on their way to something better. Perhaps they’ll stay for a night or a decade but sooner or later their interest will wane (maybe I will, through sheer exhaustion, be unable to support them or pander or play whatever role works for them) and they’ll break camp and go.
Although it seems contradictory, I hid this pathology from myself by making more and more friends. I’m very chatty and open by nature (actually, I think my chattiness is a positive side effect of this pathology) and so back in the day I made friends very quickly and easily chatting to anyone and everyone, subconsciously ascertaining what role works best for them so I could assume it and hey presto! I’m not alone anymore. Serious anxiety accompanied this monitoring and chameleonic shape-shifting… understandably as it’s fucking hard work to be on the ball, watching for mood and value changes, switching to accommodate them on the fly.
Now, the last couple of weeks really helped me uncover this pathology as – thankfully – my huge cohort of friends dropped off the radar (I say thankfully given that it had to happen before I could understand this deeper issue, but I really haven’t felt at peace with it until recently when the necessity of it became apparent). With all my friends gone (a bold overstatement, there were and always are good friends around, there were just far fewer than usual) I was able to look at this core belief and realise that I have manifested the reality of aloneness, apartness, in my life. I have driven friends, partners, colleagues away. The closer they wanted to get the more I pushed them away. All in the name of perpetuating and validating my reality.
Let me give you an easy example of how we perpetuate our reality. A cute young chick I met back in the day but never really spoke to popped up out of the woodwork a while back (thanks Facebook). Normally I never have dirty dreams about people I know (a shame) but I had one about her. Normally I REALLY never tell mere acquaintances that I had a dirty dream about them but I thought fuck it, I had nothing to lose. So I did. It was outside my MO (modus operandi or the way I normally operate) and, surprise, surprise, it got a good response. Before I knew what was happening I had this girl’s number and she’d sent me a picture of herself in lingerie. Awesome, huh? So I blatantly suggested that we get it on (also something I really never do) and she replied with “Oh God, you’re just like every other guy.”
Ok, I’m nothing like every other guy, but you can see her point.
What I’m trying to point out here is the way that we can draw others in as pawns in perpetuating our world view. This girl turned me – the complete opposite of a dog – into a dog. She used a clever mix of positive response to blatantly sexual advances and soft porn, and all of a sudden I was acting outside myself, playing a role that completely validated her reality: that all men were dogs and treated her like an object. The kicker is that she enacted behaviours that caused men to do this, even men who NEVER normally act like that (i.e. me). And she was wondering why every guy in her life acted like this.
Jigsaw piece: often we aren’t even aware of our own beliefs.
Societal Conditioning and its Role
Great, so why don’t we simply change our beliefs? A few reasons might be because in Western society there is a stigma attached to therapy (that you must be broken); we are conditioned to be afraid of change; and we are caught in a system which uses mind control to maintain the status quo.
Noam Chomsky said, in “What About Me” – the musical and philosophical documentary by 1 Giant Leap – that in first world countries like ours, people write to him and ask him what they can do to make a difference. He said that in third world countries people write to him and tell him what they’re doing. Here, where we really can achieve anything, we rarely achieve anything. We don’t know what to do. We don’t know how to approach it. Why? Because in free countries like ours, control has to be obtained and maintained without force. Mainstream media (PR) is such an effective means of engineering consent that we are programmed to sit and wait for permission or instruction before acting. And when we act, it’s based on an external locus of control rather than any internal set of values. Christianity, with God the great judge and jury sitting up in his cloud, maps well to Western societal structure (might be why the government and the church look and act so much alike).
What we end up with, then, is stasis. We do not question or push or move without being told to. We do not really believe we are worthy of more or better because we’re conditioned not to think about it. We are caught by the propaganda machine preying on our fears and keeping us consuming so that we have no time to focus on enlightenment.
Jigsaw piece: cultural context radically narrows what we allow ourselves to think and do.
Solution time, let’s put it all together.
1. Facing our pathologies:-
Ken Wilber, the brilliant American philosopher on whom I presently have an enormous man-crush, says pathology is the side-effect of misinterpreting our own inner truth. When we start playing roles (evolutionarily speaking this begins around the age of 7) we begin to lie to ourselves. We might feel angry that our dad left us, but this quickly turns to guilt at being angry at him, which ends up as sadness about the guilt. Now we misinterpret anger as depression.
Good therapy is all about correctly interpreting our inner truth. Find a good therapist.
2. Overcoming societal conditioning:-
But why would I go to a therapist when a GP can just throw me a pill? And besides, my boss/partner/mum/friends will think I’m crazy if I go see someone and talk about my feelings. Shouldn’t I just suck it up and get the project finished so I can renovate the bathroom? Or buy that investment property? Or that new car?
Firstly do not, unless it is entirely necessary, medicate. Medication masks and suppresses. These emotions need to be explored and expressed in their true form. Medication has its place – no doubt – but happy pills are being given out like candy these days. You probably don’t need them.
Next, stop watching TV, reading the paper, magazines, news sites, etc. Consciously focus on muting ads (if you have to watch TV, but you will find this desire fades pretty quickly too once you start in this direction) both verbal and visual. Because you can’t just excise part of your life and expect everything to stay in balance, find something beautiful to fill the gaps created. Spend time playing with your kid(s); learn tantra with your partner; read more books; watch more documentaries; write, paint, dance, sing, play an instrument; go for a walk; learn to cook; join a local mah-jong tournament; design clothes; create a blanket fort and invite some friends over for a tea party in it.
Now, stop drinking. Before you google off somewhere else in disgust, hear me out: there’s method to my madness. All these things I’m suggesting you cut out are suppressors. They block you from yourself. Get you away from your body, away from the moment, away from the wonder of reality that is unfolding this very minute. By all means go out to pubs, clubs, bars, etc… You might like to try the drink of champions: half orange juice half soda water. Too much softdrink gets you pretty high, too. Water is ace. Oh, and life will be much easier and you’ll keep more friends if you don’t get on your high horse about abstaining from the booze. Just tell people it’s no longer for you.
Try meditation. Or Yoga. Or Tai Chi. Or Qi gong. Or Reiki. Or all of these.
Finally, stick with it. Contemporary society provides quick-fix pills for everything, but that’s not the way to evolve. As Wilber says, you can accelerate but cannot skip steps in your evolution. And as Osho says, until you are enlightened, you need technique. Be prepared to go through the motions for, ohhh, about the rest of your life.
3. Be extremely careful with what you think and believe:-
As you undo and let go of these layers you’ll begin to see that life has absolutely shaped itself around your beliefs. The deeper you go the more it will make sense (as in my case, I didn’t understand why I felt so alone when I was surrounded by people). You have a responsibility to yourself now. Your thoughts and beliefs shape reality, so you’re going to want to believe in some pretty good things. Focus on abundance, peace, happiness, prosperity, wonder, love, inspiration, innovation. Again, consistency is key here.
Disarm the negative self-talk with positive examples showing the exact opposite of what that voice suggests. Perhaps make really honest lists of all your successes and all your failures in any particular field where you feel crap. Then go through and cross out all the failures that aren’t really failures (like the ones that started as successes but some external factor stuffed things up). You might be amazed at how kick-ass you actually are.
A quick post-script on the negative self-talk: I have a negative projectionist who doesn’t really speak so much as paints internal images of limit and lack, briar and thorn. It took me a while to get my head around this and really look at the blind spots it had created to mask the positive things in my internal imagery. You might have a negative sommelier (yes I know I’m not using the term correctly, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?) who conjures up stank when you are trying to be positive, or one who gives you a bitter taste in your mouth… Be on the lookout.