Personal Reality – How we see the world
Our personal concept of reality –who we are, how things work, what is actual – is based on three things:
Reality is larger than any or all of these; our personal reality is always going to be only a part of a larger “real” reality.
Because there are always individual variations in all three of the above components, OUR PERSONAL REALITY IS ALWAYS UNIQUE, no matter how many elements of it we share with others.
HOWEVER, since we ALL create our personal concept of reality in the same way, EACH PERSON’S PERSONAL REALITY IS EQUALLY VALID.
That said, we don’t exist in isolation. Because of that we also have a concept of reality that I call “shared outer reality.” This is generally what we use as the standard for measuring whether something is real or not.
Shared Outer Reality vs. Real Reality
Shared outer reality is ALSO not “real reality.” In different times and different cultures (and subcultures) the accepted concept of what is/was real has varied tremendously. EACH CULTURE HAS BELIEVED THAT ITS CONCEPT OF REALITY WAS THE “TRUE” REALITY. Each reality had explanations for how the world works and what our individual role/purpose was in it.
Conclusions so far
Two extremely helpful conclusions to take away from this are:
Realities and Relationships
Why is this so important? Because a great deal of relationship problems occur due to the belief that “MY REALITY IS THE ONLY REAL REALITY” and that other people must or should see things the same way I do.
How does this play out? Here are some typical kinds of statements:
If the existence of alternate but equally validly created concepts of reality is NOT accepted, the outcomes are usually one of the following:
My belief and observations over many years of providing therapy is that recognizing and respecting that we may have different but equally validly created realities is essential to having effective close relationships.
A caveat: “Equally validly created” doesn’t mean equally appropriate or useful. It only acknowledges that other people’s beliefs about reality are almost certainly as appropriately come to as your own. Even if they appear to you to be limited, rigid, culturally inappropriate, or “crazy.” Even if they aren’t the beliefs most people hold. Acknowledging that allows the relationship to retain RESPECT for each other, and fosters the climate needed to create a relationship reality (discussed later) that works for both persons. After starting there THEN one can begin exploring what “makes most sense” for the relationship in the current situation.
I have found this to work even in cases where the other person was clearly having actual psychotic symptoms.
And no, that probably does not describe your spouse, friend or partner.
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