When you realize that you never saw your beliefs in the world, that you only saw events that had no inherent meaning, it becomes clear that you create your beliefs—and, ultimately, reality as you experience it. Thus, everything we say is “out there”—other than what we sense (in other words, what we touch, see, hear, smell, or taste)—is a distinction we create that exists only in our mind.
Creation is the act of making distinctions
For example, you walk down the street and think you actually see “men” and “women,” when you actually only perceive what we have defined as individual human beings. You describe these human beings as “men” or “women,” but you have never actually seen “men” or “women”; they are only abstractions you have distinguished and imposed on reality. If you were to arbitrarily distinguish people into those taller and those shorter than six feet, you would eventually walk down the street and think you are seeing “shorties” and “tallies” as clearly as you now see men and women.
In Alternate Realities, Lawrence LeShan gives a simple example:
Consider how we make classes of things. “Surely,” we say, “we do not create classes. We take them as we find them ‘out there,’ male and female, animal, vegetable, and mineral. . . . We are not creating anything. We are observing things and learning their relationships.” Why then, asked one philosopher, has no one made a class of red, juicy, edible things and included meat and cherries in it? Or a class of tall, dark-haired men and women with no earlobes?
It becomes clear, as we look at LeShan’s example, that we help create and maintain the reality we perceive and react to. So nothing is until you make it so. But once you do, it must be. You can no longer not see men and women. (I once had the following printed on a t-shirt: “It isn’t until it is, and then it must be.” Can you imagine me trying to explain what I meant by that phrase to everyone who read it and asked me?)
Here is a vivid example. In The Experts Speak by Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky, hundreds of experts are cited who were limited in their ability to see anything outside their existing beliefs. The following is just one of the beliefs that was generally accepted as “the truth” and that determined the believer’s behavior at the time.
Cerf and Navasky tell of how
in the 1850s, a Hungarian doctor and professor of obstetrics, Ignaz Semmelweis, ordered his interns at the Viennese Lying-In Hospital to wash their hands after performing autopsies and before examining new mothers. The death rate plummeted from 22 out of 200 to two out of 200, prompting the following reaction from one of Europe’s most respected medical practitioners:
It may be that it [Semmelweis’s procedure] does contain a few good principles, but its scrupulous application has presented such difficulties that it would be necessary, in Paris for instance, to place in quarantine the personnel of a hospital the great part of a year, and that, moreover, to obtain results that remain entirely problematical.” (Dr. Charles Dubois, Parisian obstetrician, in a memo to the French Academy, on September 23, 1858.)
Semmeiweis’ superiors shared Dubois’ opinion; when the Hungarian physician insisted on defending his theories, they forced him to resign his post on the faculty.
Today this example seems ridiculous. Doesn’t everyone know that proper hygiene is a lifesaving factor in hospitals? We tend to view this as an objective reality—as a fact. But Dubois and his colleagues were operating out of a different worldview, from a different set of beliefs. Semmelweis’s theory did not fit with their beliefs about hospital care, and therefore it was not and could not be the truth for them.
The only thing that is “true” is that which you make true by definition. You create reality (truth) by making arbitrary distinctions out of nothing. Whatever you distinguish becomes real (true) by the very fact of your having made the distinction. The distinction brings something into existence. It also serves as the definition of what has been brought into existence. Our world is—but only because we said so. We are, by our very nature, conscious beings who distinguish, which means beings who create our perception of “reality.”
I want to emphasize that I am not saying we create our physical reality. Maybe we do and maybe we don’t; I’m not sure. I am saying we create our perception of physical reality, and most people don’t ever make that distinction. Getting fired or having a spouse leave us are facts in reality; the events actually do exist. That they are a disaster or an opportunity for something better is a function of our beliefs and our occurrings. So when I say we create our reality, I am saying we create our experience of reality and we can change it.
Once you have created a belief, you have created a reality (for you) in which your belief is “the truth.” (I am…. People are…. Life is….) And your life becomes consistent with that belief. You have constant evidence that the belief is true. You have a hard time even imagining possible behavior that is not consistent with your belief. It is difficult to eliminate or change the belief because you feel that you actually perceived it existing in the world. So your behavior continues to be consistent with your belief, even if it is dysfunctional and you try to change it.
When You Eliminate a Belief You Change Your Reality and Create New Possibilities
Because “things” only exist as a result of distinctions you make, when you dissolve or eliminate the distinction, that reality disappears. The following exercise demonstrates my point.
Let’s distinguish a two-dimensional figure with three straight sides from every other possible figure and call it a triangle. (A definition is nothing more than how you describe a specific distinction. It’s the “nature” of the distinction.) Now let’s change the figure by adding one more side and making it a four-sided figure with equal angles. Notice you no longer have a triangle. You now have a figure we have defined as a rectangle. The new figure no longer fits the definition of a triangle. You might say that the triangle has disappeared. It doesn’t exist.
From this illustration we learn that when the unique attributes of a “thing” are changed—when the distinction that makes it unique from other “things” is changed—that specific “thing” disappears.
This principle explains what makes a belief disappear during the Lefkoe Belief Process (LBP). In the LBP you identify a specific belief, which is a conviction you have that your way of viewing the world is “the truth,” as distinguished from all other views, which are not “the truth”—they’re false. You then transform a statement that you consider to be “the truth” into a statement that you consider to be “a truth?’ Once you do that, the statement is no longer a belief. It has become merely one possible interpretation—one of many possible ways of defining reality. Thus, the belief no longer exists. It has disappeared! And when the belief is gone, your reality has changed. New possibilities appear that weren’t there before.
Most therapies assume that there is an objective world “out there” that the client is having trouble dealing with. Therefore, the conventional role of therapy is to help people cope better with that objective world. The LBP, on the other hand, assumes that there is no “reality” (for you) independent from your beliefs. Thus, altering your beliefs not only changes your behavior, your feelings, and how you perceive the world, it literally changes the world in which you function.
Because we create the world as we experience it, we can change it at will.
Do you have any suggestions or comments on these thoughts on how your beliefs create your experience of reality?
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copyright ©2010 Morty Lefkoe