Here’s an important realisation about reality for me: the majority of what I think I know is completely wrong.
This is not because I have realised I am an idiot. It just seems to be the truth.
My view of the economy is utterly wrong: there is too much data and it is changing every minute. My view of my friend’s situation is totally wrong: no pub conversation could ever cover all that ground. If I tell myself that I completely know my wife then I am mistaken: we’d have to spend all our lives picking apart our feelings…who would want to do that?
In fact, I don’t even know my own self. 50% self knowledge would be very good going I reckon, but that would barely pass most exams; I suspect my score is much less. I wonder if even the Dalai Lama would scrape a B. So most of the time I must be communicating inaccurately about myself to everyone else.
Unreliable information abounds, but I have to process all this somehow. So for each situation I construct a version of reality that feels OK with me, and I get on with my life. This behaviour seems perfectly necessary; it’s just biology. Or psychology, or something.
The problem arises the moment I start to believe that my version of reality is actually correct. As well as inaccurate, that makes me judgmental, intolerant, less compassionate. Less able to build healthy relationships. I might start to preach, diagnose, educate, advise. That sort of stuff really pisses people off.
The solution for me seems to be to conscious that my constructed realities exist and then be prepared to step out of them, boosting my awareness percentage scores. What I think I know represents not a conclusion, but a basis to work from, in order to find out more: about my wife, about my favourite hobby or about poverty in Somalia.
I have noticed that if people briefly let their guard down, for a vulnerable moment of honesty, they will often admit “you know, I really have no bloody idea”.
But there are lots of things that prevent such moments from happening: fear of the consequences of being open and honest, the desire to maintain an illusion of control for oneself, or to project a myth of wisdom and superiority to the world; all those things that carry risk of damage to the personal brand.
The great thing is, I’m probably completely wrong about those worries too! Why hold ourselves back by constructing fake realities, when there’s the alternative of being free to live a real life?