The question frequently arises: How can I tell the difference between three related phenomena:

  • the meaning we automatically and unconsciously give events (how external and internal events occur to me),
  • making conscious assumptions about the events,
  • and intuition we have about events.

This question arises when I tell people that operating as if our “occurrings” are the truth about reality is never appropriate because we are confusing a meaning that exists only in our mind with what actually happens in reality.  And we can’t possibly deal effectively with reality if we don’t correctly identify what it is.


First let’s get clear about what I mean by “reality/events.”

It is 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, although sometimes “reality” can’t be “seen” because it is inside your mind, such as thoughts, memories, projections of the future, and physical sensations.

Now, how does reality/events differ from occurrings, conscious inferences, and intuition?


Occurrings are meanings that you have automatically and unconsciously given to events as they happen.  For example, a friend of yours walks into a room you are in, sees you, and doesn’t say hello.  That’s the event in reality.  It could occur for you, however, as if your friend is angry at you.

A critical aspect of occurrings is that they feel like “the truth” to us.  They seem like “reality” to us.  We have to look carefully to distinguish them from actual events in reality.   We can give meaning to both internal and external reality, in other words, events that occur “out there in the world” and those that happen in your mind.

In the situation described above, it would seem like the friend really is angry at you, when, in fact, all that happened is he didn’t say hello.  That he is angry at you is how the actual event “occurred” to you.

 Conscious Inferences

Occurrings are very different from conscious inferences, which are the result of consciously looking at reality and asking ourselves: What are some of the possible implications of, and what would be the best way to deal with, the events?  For example, remember the friend who walked in a room you were in and didn’t say hello or even acknowledge your presence.  One possible occurring might be: He is angry at me.  If that were your occurring, it would seem to you as if he really is angry.

After dissolving the occurring you would realize that all that actually happened is he walked in and didn’t pay attention to you.  Then you could consciously ask yourself: What could his behavior possibly mean?  You might conclude that it could mean he is angry, or he is distracted, or upset and doesn’t want to talk to anyone, or deep in thought and doesn’t want to get off track, etc.  At which point you could deal with the reality of what actually happened by walking over to the friend and asking if he is okay, or by waiting until later if you think waiting would make sense.

A inference about an event that is made consciously—that is clearly an assumption and doesn’t feel like the truth—is different from an occurring, which is made unconsciously and which does feel like the truth.

When you act on a conscious inference you realize that events have no inherent meaning and that you don’t know the best way to deal with it, so you investigate to find out.  When you act on an occurring, you are certain what an event meant because you perceive your occurring as reality.


Another phenomenon that is sometimes confused with occurrings is intuition.  Intuition is a type of knowing that usually doesn’t depend on the five senses; it is a feeling about something that seems to be true.  According to Wikipedia, it is “the ability to acquire knowledge without inference or the use of reason.” Because an intuitive thought can seem like the meaning you are giving an event, it can be difficult to distinguish between intuitive thoughts and how events occur to you.

Usually intuitive thoughts don’t have the certainty that occurrings do, although in some situations they might.  My experience is that after making a concerted effort to identify occurrings and distinguishing them from events hundred of times, I (and others whom I’ve trained) have gotten to the point where occurrings usually “feel different” from intuition.

But you still might not always know the difference.  So the best way to deal with possible intuitions is the following: Because we can never be absolutely sure that our intuitive thoughts are accurate, it makes sense to treat all thoughts about an event (occurrings, conscious inferences, and intuitions) as tentative, as being subject to further checking.

Even if you are not always able to distinguish occurrings from intuition, you can always make it a practice to distinguish occurrings, conscious inferences, and intuition from reality and then consider anything other than reality as something that needs to be considered tentative and investigated further.

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