About two years ago I realized that the failure to make a distinction between reality and how reality occurs to us is the source of many problems in our life. As I’ve learned more about this distinction I’ve written several posts about it, which led to a lot of comments from you.

Perhaps the most common questions I’ve received ask:  Both beliefs and occurrings seem to be meaning we give to meaningless events. What is the difference between them?  Why is the difference important.

In today’s post I’ll answer these questions and explain how our happiness depends on understanding the difference between them.

There is a crucial difference between a belief and an occurring

Beliefs are the meaning we give (usually) to a series of events. Beliefs are broad generalizations, for example, I am ….  People are …. Life is ….  A belief is a statement about reality that we feel and act is the truth, although it is possible to intellectually disagree with something we believe. Once formed, beliefs continue to exist and affect our behavior, feelings and perceptions forever, unless we are able to eliminate the belief.  We view life through the filter of our beliefs.

Our occurrings, on the other hand, are the meaning we give to an event in reality, in other words, how reality occurs to us at a given moment.  Each occurring is a distinct meaning that usually lasts only a short time and then fades away by itself when we stop thinking about the event.  An example of an occurring is your boss asking you a question and it occurring to you as she doesn’t trust me, she doesn’t like me, or I’m going to get fired.  That is the meaning you have given to the boss’s question.  In reality all that happened is that she asked you a question.  Contrast that occurring—the meaning you gave to that specific event—to beliefs that act as a filter through which we view all events, such as No one trusts me.  No one likes me.  I can’t keep a job.

Why occurrings are so important

Usually we don’t distinguish between reality and how reality occurs for us (our occurring), so we think the meaning we give reality IS reality.  Because we think our occurring IS reality, we interact with our occurring, not reality.

For example, losing our job is a fact in reality, seeing it as a disaster or a great opportunity are two possible ways the event can occur for you. You can “see” that you no longer have a job.  You can’t “see” that the job loss is a disaster or an opportunity.  If your job loss occurred to you as a disaster, you would try to deal with “a disaster,” instead of with a job loss, which probably would have you feel and behave differently

The simple distinction between beliefs and occurrings

Can you see that beliefs are broad generalizations that filter your view of all events, while occurrings are “one time” meanings you give to specific events that do not affect the meaning you give to similar events in the future?

Your long-held beliefs are NOT occurrings. Occurrings require, by definition, an event, either in your mind or in the world.  An occurring is how an event occurs for you. If there is no event, there is no occurring.

Is it now clear that beliefs and occurrings are two totally different phenomena?  There is a relationship between them, however, in that beliefs are the major source of our occurrings.  In other words, how a meaningless event occurs for us is determined mainly by our beliefs.  (Other determining factors can include our mood, physical condition, and stage of development [see almost any of Ken Wilber’s books for details on stages of development])

Change your beliefs and you can change how events show up for you.  For example, if you believe, People are stupid, they will occur for you that way.  Eliminate that belief and your future occurrings probably will change

It is important to realize that it is possible to dissolve an occurring without eliminating any beliefs.  On the other hand, if you don’t eliminate the beliefs that are causing a occurring, you will continue to have the same occurring when similar events happen in your life.

I want to emphasize that the reason this distinction between reality and our occurrings is so important is that most people rarely distinguish between them, thereby acting as if their occurring IS reality.  In other words, we rarely deal with what is actually in the world; we deal with the meaning we have given what is in the world, a meaning that exists only in our own mind.

Define a few relevant terms

Let me define a few other terms that are relevant to this discussion.  First, reality,  by which I mean what actually happens in the world.  Events. What you know through your five senses, especially what you can see or hear.  What you usually could capture on a video recording.  Sometimes “reality” can’t be “seen” because it is inside your mind, such as thoughts, memories, projections of the future, and physical sensations.  We can give all of these meaning, so we can have occurrings about all of them

The next term I want to clarify is “No meaning.”  Events in reality have no inherent meaning. In other words, you can’t draw any inferences or make any predictions—for sure—as a result of observing any events, including internal events such as memories or physical sensations.  All meaning, therefore, is in your mind. This idea can be difficult to prove to someone who hasn’t experienced it.  I hear all the time: “Of course events have meaning! Doesn’t dying have meaning?  Doesn’t it mean something if someone treats you badly?”  The best way I know to make this idea real is to experience it when you do the Lefkoe Belief Process, where you experience clearly that mom’s and dad’s behavior had no inherent meaning, that the way they treated you meant nothing about you.

Our occurrings cause most of our feeling

The third idea I want to clarify is: “Reality can’t cause feelings.”  Reality/events are unable to make you feel anything because they have no inherent meaning.  The primary source of your feelings is the meaning you give to events.

For example: If you don’t get something you want and you give it the meaning: I can’t get what I want and I never will—you probably will get upset.  If you give it the meaning: I haven’t gotten what I want yet, so what do I have to do to get it?—you probably will feel challenged and excited.  The meaning we give events is the primary source of our feelings.  Thus, being able to dissolve your occurrings enables you to simultaneously dissolve negative feelings, such as anxiety, anger, and upset

Although beliefs sometimes can cause feelings directly (for example, the belief men are dangerous probably would make a woman anxious around men), their major influence on feelings is via occurrings.  In other words, beliefs are a primary determinant of our occurrings, and our occurrings cause most of our feelings.

For example, imagine that your boss walks in your room and says to you: “Is the project complete yet?”  That is the reality, what actually happened.  That might occur to you as she is dissatisfied with me, or my job is in jeopardy, or I never do anything right.  That occurring, in turn, might have you feel anxious or possibly even angry.

I needed to eliminate a lot of beliefs (and some conditionings) to get rid of my depression, my neediness, my need for the approval of others, and a bunch of other problems. But I still had many occurrings daily that caused little upsets, many of which I’ve written about in earlier posts.  When I stopped giving meaning to events, these minor upsets stopped completely.

Because getting rid of beliefs and occurrings are two totally different processes, it is possible for you to dissolve your moment-by-moment occurrings even before you have eliminated many beliefs

Please leave your comments and questions about the distinction between beliefs and occurrings and how each of them affects your life.

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