If we can’t see reality accurately, we tend to hurt ourselves by resisting it, and by disliking ourselves. So, even though there are a billion potential things to focus on, we generally chose our own repetitive, negative thoughts about ourselves, or the world.
But is the problem really with us? Or, is it in the world? Or, is it really in our heads? And, even if that’s true, what does that mean?
One hint comes by way of a study, done many years ago, where scientists placed people in a quiet, empty room, with zero distractions. When left with the choice of spending more time with their thoughts, versus electrocuting themselves, many preferred an electric shock to their own company!
Can you see the truth presented there? When life is busy around us, like the others who trained us to be human, we tend to get distracted by negative judgments about the world, or about ourselves. Then—like they trained us—we blame the world and ourselves for those negative feelings.
Yet, in a quiet room with zero distractions, where we have nothing to blame our negative feelings on, we’re suddenly able to recognize that it must be the thoughts that are hurting us, not the world. No matter where we are, it’s the fact that our attention is favouring our thoughts over the world, that generates all of our problems and suffering.
Of course, many people grasp that idea very well—intellectually. It’s not hard to see that nicer thoughts would lead to nicer feelings. But frankly, that’s just putting a nicer layer of ego over the same illusion. What people really need to do is to learn to see the truth underneath all of that thinking—the truth we all share.
Like learning to multiply numbers, this difference between the world and our thinking is a very simple one—after we’ve seen it. But my advanced students are starting to help me realize that reality is much harder to see if people have lived most of their life from an ego’s perspective.
In their first course, recent students gained a lot of mastery over their anxiety, or depression, or they gained the self-confidence they felt represented them more accurately. But once they graduated into advanced classes, and I had given them the full framework for reality, I had largely assumed they could see almost as much of its contents as I can.
Fortunately, they’ve taught me how unrealistic that idea was. My accident happened when I was five. I was starting to take the ego’s illusory reality apart while it was still being built. Thanks to those students, I can now appreciate that this gives me a very unique and valuable perspective to teach from, and that my ability to answer the really tough questions is rare.
Those of you who access the blog’s social media are likely aware that I have been talking about several larger projects that I hope will debut over the next year. Some of it relates to the training of mental health professionals, and some of it involves new formats for learning. Some will happen soon, and some will be rolled out next year. But all of it is designed to clear up a lot of confusion around reality.
It really all started about three years ago, when a particularly excellent student, (who has proven to be one of the most capable ones I’ve ever had), strongly encouraged me to write, or speak more about these issues in a broader sense. He felt, (and I share that feeling), that learning about reality would allow individuals and groups to quickly achieve bigger things than we might otherwise imagine were possible.
It was an excellent point then, and the world has only made truer since he said it. When I look at the ‘problems’ of the world today, be they personal issues with emotions, or suicide, drugs, mental health disorders; or challenges in society regarding race, or religion, or politics, or government, I just keep seeing issues that are primarily arising because everyone is innocently but consistently misunderstanding reality. And that often leaves them in conflict with other people who’ve made a similarly innocent mistake.
In the past, trying to sell this lesson was the hard part. No one could even see that an issue existed. But fortunately, over the last few years, the world has seen ideas about ‘truth’ and ‘reality’ tested like never before, and everyone can see that there are major fault lines. Some people are even taking stands about what reality should be—but no one else has answers for everyone else’s questions. Yet answers do exist.
What we need is a reliable replacement vision. We need a revolution of thought that leaves us with a world that makes more sense than our worldview appears to make right now, but that also leaves us all better off. And it is possible. And, I’m slowly coming to accept, that a guy that grew up aware that he was the thinker of his thoughts, has a lot more to offer when it comes to showing people how they can see through life’s illusion, to the comforting truth behind it all. So stay tuned….
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.