Steve Pavlina writes a blog, Personal Development for Smart People, that I find enriching and enjoyable (likely because of the ego boost his blog’s title gives me.) Steve has recently written a number of articles discussing subjective reality. I’ve read all of the (very long) posts. He presents a worthy subject and gives a superb explanation of his beliefs. That being said, I think he takes this one a little too far.
The subjective reality system can be boiled down to a) you are pure consciousness, b) you are the “game board” that this physical world is played out on, c) there is no other consciousness but you, d) although you are playing the game from the first person perspective, you are everything within the Universe. If you adopt this belief system then you are in absolute control of everything in the Universe because everything originates from within your consciousness. Something exists because you believe it. Stop believing it and it will no longer exist.
There’s one reason I think this belief system is damaging. There are people being abused somewhere in the world right now. This is something in which we have the opportunity to intervene. We should do what is in our power to end such evil. In the subjective reality as Steve explains it, this abuse exists simply because I believe it does. I could continue believing it exists and make a contribution to end abuse. Or, I could simply change my beliefs so that abuse no longer exists in my reality. No longer will people around the world experience abuse because this is my world, this is my consciousness, and if I don’t believe it then it doesn’t exist.
Subjective reality, the way Steve has is defined, grants everybody blindness. Are the neighbor kids being beaten by their abusive father? No worries, it’s all in your head. Just change your beliefs and the beatings will stop.
Life doesn’t work this way. It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not, that child is suffering. You can either ignore it, try to wish it away, or you can make a difference. Until something is done, that child is going to continue to be beaten, whether you believe they are or not.
Of course, I can’t definitively state that Steve’s theories about subjective reality are incorrect because it is impossible to actually prove anything. The things that are “proven” are labeled as such because we humans have agreed so. Objective reality, the laws of math and physics, cause and effect, can not be proven. To prove that anything is real you would have to prove that this isn’t all being made up in your head. It simply can’t be done. And even if someone else is telling you that it is true, you can’t prove that you haven’t made that person up in your head.
The subjective belief system follows the same logic. It can’t be proven. Nothing can be proven to exist because you can’t prove that you aren’t making it all up. The beauty of the subjective belief system is that it embraces this logic and allows individuals to function more productively.
Just because something can’t be proven doesn’t mean that it is incorrect. Something can be 100% correct and completely unprovable. Even though you can’t prove it, you’ll probably be more successful believing in the things that are most likely to be correct and adapting your life strategy to incorporate those beliefs.
Steve makes a point that I absolutely agree with. You can not change someones beliefs. No one changes their beliefs because they lose an argument. People change their beliefs because they want to. I’m not writing this to argue with Steve or anyone else. I’m simply writing about my experiences so that those out there who resonate with my writings will be able to share with me.
The Art of Possibility, a book by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, surprised me with its insightful blending of the subjective and objective worlds. I ordered this book because it was a recommended product while I was ordering another book. What a great surprise. This is one of the most enriching books I have read. It is truly uplifting and inspiring.
Chapter one is titled, It’s All Invented, and starts with a story you may be familiar with:
A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying, SITUATION HOPELESS. NO ONE WEARS SHOES. The other writes back triumphantly, GLORIOUS BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY. THEY HAVE NO SHOES.
All of life comes to us in narrative form; it’s a story we tell. We see only a map of the world, not the world itself. Our minds are designed to string events into story lines, whether or not there is any connection between the parts. The maps, or frames, our minds create define — and confine — what we perceive to be possible. Every problem, every dilemma, every dead-end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view. Create another frame around the data, and problems vanish, while new opportunities appear. Always keep in mind that it’s all invented, not just some of it, but all of it. If you learn to notice and distinguish your mind’s stories, founded on a network of assumptions, you will be able to break through the barriers of any “frame” that contains unwanted conditions and create other conditions or narratives that support the life you envision for yourself and those around you (Zander & Zander, Chapter 1).
Chapter two completes what I consider to be the gist of the book, Stepping into a Universe of Possibility. For generations, we’ve been raised to believe in a world of measurement; a world of scarcity in which we must compete to survive. In a world of scarcity, certain responses are better suited to survival and we begin to see things in terms of success or failure, measurement.
The world doesn’t have to be this way. If it is this way for you, you have the opportunity to recognize that it’s all invented; your assumptions are guiding you through a world of measurement. You can step out of that world into a world that is infinite, generative, and abundant. Unimpeded on a daily basis by the concern for survival, free from the generalized assumption of scarcity, you can stand in the great space of possibility in a posture of openness, with an unfettered imagination for what can be. The pie is enormous, and if you take a slice, the pie is whole again (Zander & Zander, Chapter 2).
If you’re living in a world where you struggle just to get by, a world that seems cold and dangerous, a world where nothing seems to go right, a different world and a different way of living await you. Purchase this book and open your life to the realm of possibility.