What do The Matrix, mass media, a glass-bottle-base, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and our brains’ way of functioning have in common? They all relate to and raise the question: what’s distorted, and what truly is reality?
Hence, reality-craft… as in crafting something and thinking it is a reality. Apparently our brains are experts at it, using processes of generalization (“You never listen to me!!“), deletion (“That pedestrian came out of nowhere!“), and distortion (“S/he hates me!“). These are survival skills, so even if we could stop them, we shouldn’t (anyone thinking otherwise should see “It’s a wonderful life“), but without being aware of what’s happening, we jump to conclusions of what the “TRUTH” is, and decide/ act/ behave accordingly, often to our own and others’ detriment.
So once in a while, perhaps as we party into the new year (as some suspect this humble writer to be doing, which I am happy to leave unconfirmed and undenied – a silent homage to the popular response used in any topic of potential controversy), it might be at the very least interesting to catch some of our reality-crafting in progress.
And if we notice ourselves going “Of course it was a deliberate snub – how rude! I’m SO not talking to them ever again“, we can:
a) finally take up that salsa-dancing class we’ve been drooling over to fill up the extra time we now have, since there’s one less relationship to manage;
b) remember this anecdote from Stephen Covey about “The Power of a Paradigm Shift” in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (reproduced here for the work-shy that still might not get there, from a chapter provided on Amazon for the patient few who scroll down far enough):
I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly — some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene.
Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.
The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.
It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”
The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”
Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, and because I saw differently, I thought differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. “Your wife just died? Oh, I’m so sorry! Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?” Everything changed in an instant.