Your reality is different than my reality, and that’s okay.
“Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.”
― Charles Addams
After spending some time in the world, and experiencing how different people experience different phenomenons, a theory of universal understanding began to gel for me. The theory is that everyone has threads of understanding (or thoughts) that they have formed about their world through experience. One example is gravity. People learn that things dropped from a height will fall. If you yourself are dropped from a height, you will fall, and it will hurt. Almost no one believes they can actually fly, or that gravity does not apply to them (except perhaps Wile E. Coyote). This is one of many threads we all have in common.
If enough people have similar threads, or enough people have similar ideals, ideas, or views, those threads become social norms. The ones humanity, or a society, feels strongest about become enforceable laws. For the purposes of this discussion, “Society” will henceforth mean the collection of most popular threads.
The purpose of, or consequence of, social norms and laws is that a normalizing effect is created. Society attempts to bring everyone to the same understanding. Or at least the understanding that is the most popular.
So what does this have to do with reality? There is no single, universal reality. No blue pill, no red pill. Everyone has their own reality.
A person’s reality is formed based on the cumulative experiences they’ve had throughout life. A person’s ability to perform/live within society is a function of how many threads they share with their society’s norms, or most popular threads, and their ability to either hide or deal with the ones that don’t align.
An extension of this, is that there is no “good” reality, or “bad” reality. Everyone, with sufficient self-conviction, believes their reality is the right one. This is why serial killers are so disturbing, because their reality is very much real but it clashes with our own version of understanding. Conflicting realities have been contributing to conflicts for ages. One example that comes to mind is the pro-life vs pro-choice debate.
But then why do we have so many people with norms so different than that of society and how do they cope? For some, their differences are easily hidden. For others, their differences cause them to be shunned. However, there are also people who are able to use their strengths to make their differences seem insignificant or acceptable.
Once realizing this, a pattern comes about. Society is built on a system of normalization. The most popular threads of the majority of people become the norm. If you do not subscribe or share these threads, you are “different”, “quirky”, “criminal”, or “have a disorder”, depending on the severity. Many people, when confronted with realities or threads of reality different than their own, try to normalize them. This is done by either eliminating them (“kill the infidels”, the Crusades, and 99% of all world conflicts), shunning them (peer pressure/bullying), ignoring them or trying to change them (therapy). Normalizing is an attempt to make the different party see your point of view, and to use your thread of reality instead of theirs. This can happen forcefully, or willingly, depending on if the different person is willing to change their reality.
Being different to a point is okay, until it presents a conflict of interest or threatens the status quo. Finding this balance, the balance between living in Society, while maintaining individuality, is one of the hardest things a human can master. Therapy, be it physical, verbal, or medical, are all attempts to first invite the different person to see other’s threads of reality, and either adapt to it, or change to it.
Continuing the theory, what about “disorders” that involve chemical differences in the brain? Take a common one: depression. The reason drugs are given, are to normalize brain chemistry. Bring the brain back to a “normal”, or commonly understood chemical balance.
We each have our own view of reality. It’s a wise and mindful thing to recognize that it is perfectly “normal” for our reality to not align with everyone else’s. Perhaps it is the same as others, but perhaps not. Just because our realities are different does not make them incorrect or wrong, no matter how distasteful they seem to some. They’re just…different. Acknowledgment and compassion are the first steps in accepting that each of us are simply people trying to understand the world. And what a powerful step that is.
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