Other People’s Stories – Interlude

I am about to finally re-commence with my “Other People’s Stories” posts, but before I do, I want to make clear that I am not saying that we are helpless to change the world, our situations, or that we are pawns without any autonomy or will.

Quite the contrary – my MAIN concern is that many people invoke the “we create reality” philosophy as a way to shrug off injustice, as a way to absolve themselves of caring about others. The status quo is upheld, poor people are blamed for poverty, and people who face bigotry are blamed for the hurt that causes. None of this is OK.

Yes, a “good attitude” can go a long way in my life and that of many of my peers, but there are things that can’t be changed by a “good” attitude and there are times when expecting a good attitude out of someone facing injustice (subtle or violent) is inhumane.

Another concern is I have, and I have this one from first hand experience, is that if a person buys into this philosophy, then faces cruelty *or even random but painful events* beyond her control, the result can be devastating. One is left wondering how she MADE thus and such happen, when in fact, only the perpetrator is to blame, or in the case of some things, events without a perpetrator, NO ONE is to blame.

I believe, deep down, someone who really NEEDS to read that will, one day, wander across what I have written here and think, “Wait, if X didn’t make Y happen, maybe I can stop blaming myself for this awful thing that I endured.”

What I am NOT saying is that we have no self-will, or that we are powerless to effect change in the world. What I am saying is that we are not gods – we can only do so much, and we should not expect our fellow humans to be gods either.

I have also SO very often seen this philosophy used against people, usually women, to the tune of “Why are you letting this person hurt you?” when the real words should be “This person is an ass for hurting you.” Somehow the person in the power seat is never held responsible (“She made an enemy of me” is one phrase I have heard from a man who supposedly buys the philosophy. Hmmm…so she created HER reality and YOURS?????)

I do have some wonderful friends who live by the “you create reality” philosophy in other ways, not as stated above:

One woman VERY bravely left a loveless marriage, a great-paying job she hated, and sold her nice house to pursue her dreams. She now lets a room and lives very differently, AND she is very happily supporting herself doing what she loves. However, I don’t think she would deny that the financial net created by some of the things she was able to “let go of” helped.

Now, I believe she probably would have tried anyway, with or without that net. She may well have succeeded regardless. And she was incredibly brave to make the choices she did. But to my mind, this is not so much “creating reality” as taking control of one’s course in life, going after a dream, and going after happiness, even while knowing she’d be giving up things many things some people would think she couldn’t live without. That to me is RECOGNIZING one’s reality and making the risky changes, and accepting the new life-style sometimes required to achieve happiness. I realize that THIS is what some folks mean by “create your own reality” but it, all too easily, morphs into something else, something ugly…

Another friend tries to create reality by creating goodness as her part of the collective consciousness. This is a beautiful thought to me, but is also, to my mind, way too much responsibility. Not as much as believing one is a little god, running reality, but still too much. If my thoughts have that kind of power, that kind of realness, then I am in seriously deep shit. And honestly, I need to be free, at times, to have unkind thoughts without feeling guilty about them.

What about you?

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2 thoughts on “Other People’s Stories – Interlude

  1. One of the most powerful and pervasive ways we create our reality is through our thoughts. Cognitive psychologists argue that how we feel is not a direct product of our experiences, but rather, a product of our beliefs and interpretations of our experiences. For example, when a student is sleeping in my class, I could think “Oh, no — students are falling asleep in my class — I must be so boring!” or “How dare that student disrespect me by falling asleep!” or “That poor student must be so tired — I bet they are juggling too many responsibilities.” The first thought will make me anxious and depressed, the second will make me angry, the third will inspire sympathy. None of those thoughts will immediately change the fact that the student is sleeping, but they will change how I feel about it and how I behave toward the student, which may well impact their behavior in some way. I don’t consciously alter my thoughts much, but I work to identify several possible explanations for someone’s behavior, rather than leaping to conclusions, and I often try to think of charitable explanations as possibilities.

    1. I do this too, but I’d call it “accessing empathy” or “changing my mood”, not “creating reality.” From what I have seen and experienced, the creating reality thing is a slippery slope to less empathy – not more.

      By the way, whenever anyone is rude or extremely stupid in traffic, I usually assume that they really need to pee and are in a BIG hurry to get somewhere to do just that! Of course, there are those times when I have to decide my car has become invisible! ; ) I am “choosing” not to be angry – but I am not making the other person need to pee or making my car disappear (wouldn’t THAT be cool????). THAT would be “creating reality.”

      No, I am just adjusting my thinking – and this effects how I SEE the world, and whether I am happy or angry, but this only rarely changes the world. If I begin to take responsibility for changing reality – rather than simply taking responsibility for being kind – I will, ultimately, be damaged, either by the unkindness that results or by my frustration that it didn’t work! Additionally, there ARE times when we shouldn’t try to adjust our moods – times when that would mean denying our basic humanity, and, in fact, when it would mean failing to stand up to unjustice.

      From what we have discussed, I think you know what I have been getting at and that our differences are mainly semantic. As I finish part 3-5 of other people’s stories, then tell a few of my own, what I am getting at will be clearer.

      Of course, you could probably do it in a lot fewer words, but my essay type writing has a long way to go before it’s as elegant as yours! Too many years of tech writing, I suppose!

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