We can be so quick to judge what is ‘real’ but how aware are you of the filters through which you view reality. If you are not aware of these filters you cannot trust your ability to say what is real. By filters I mean the conditioning through which you see the world. Some common examples include:
– Religion. The fact that the majority of people in a particular country can share the same faith tells us something. If people were truly objective there would be much greater diversity in terms of religious beliefs.
– Parents. Every pschologist will tell you that children unconsciously adopt the values, beliefs and behaviours of their parents, whether they believe they do or not. Rebellious children adopt the opposite values, but this is still parental conditioning.
– Life experiences. Our judgement can be impaired because of exaggerated fears from the marks left by extreme life experiences.
– The media. The way that the story is told hugely influences our interpretation of the facts and we have no way of knowing what facts are supressed or what ‘spin’ is being put on the ‘facts’ to serve some hidden agenda.
– Love. We have heard the expression ‘love is blind’. Lovers tend to filter out each others failings, at least during the early stages of their relationship driven by the desire for a special emotional connection with the object of their desire.
– Group think. Behind many business failures is denial of facts which did not fit with accepted corporate norms or cultural values.The more authoritarian the institution the more likely that this will happen -recent scandals in the Roman Catholic church being a topical example.
A good example of group think on a grand scale is recent experience of the property market crash. Most of us signed up to the convenient view that property values would continue to go up and up, despite all objective economic indicators indicating that there was trouble ahead. This is a very good example of wishful thinking getting in the way of the facts.
It is much easier to sign up to conventional views than to ‘rock the boat’ and invest in being independent minded. Also, taking an alternative view to the accepted norm takes courage and leaves us open to ridicule for daring to be different. Behind this is the demon of ‘attachment’ namely those desires and cravings we have for material success, social position and acceptance. In fact anything or anyone to which we are attached potentially colours our judgement and ability to see reality.
So what can we do to be more grounded in reality ?
At the deepest philosophical level everything is relative and there is no objective reality and this is a reason for avoiding firm views and judgements on anything. Regardless of your current values, beliefs and behaviours it is wise to remain open to alternative views and be ready to change your mind when faced with new information.
However, the best gift you can give yourself in developing your ability to see reality is awareness – of your environmental conditioning (filters) and why you have the values and beliefs that you have. There is no avoiding an inner journey to understand why you think and react the way you do. This understanding, without any further action, will help hugely to keep you grounded in reality and position you to make better decisions.
A benefit of the current economic crisis is a much needed dose of humility and questioning of personal and societal values. But be warned – we can be good at learning lessons but have a depressing tendency to forget lessons learned in time, unless we make permanent changes to our core values and beliefs.