Subjective Reality Analogies

September 18th, 2006 by Steve Pavlina

People often ask me to prove to them subjective reality is real.  These requests stem from the desire to shoehorn subjective reality into a pre-existing objective framework, while within the framework of subjective reality itself, they make little sense because the proof only manifests as a result of the belief.  Let me offer some analogies that will hopefully provide a clearer understanding.

Subjective reality is a belief system — a perspective.  It is no more real or unreal than objective reality, which is also nothing but a perspective.  How do you prove a perspective?  That question doesn’t make much sense, since your particular perception of reality depends on your perspective.  In truth the best way to discern a perspective’s accuracy is to experience it from both the inside and the outside.  To do anything less means you’ll succumb to too many blind spots.

I’ve never felt comfortable about adopting a specific belief unless I’ve personally experienced that belief as well as its opposite.  For example, at one point in my life I genuinely believed all psychic phenomena was total bunk.  At another point in my life I believed much of it was real.  I even went back and forth between these beliefs a few times.  When I had racked up enough experience on both sides, I had enough clarity to pick the belief that was most accurate and empowering for me.  Others may go through this process and make the opposite choice from me, which is perfectly fine.

Subjective reality is one of those belief systems I experienced from the inside and the outside.  Ultimately I found the inside perspective to be significantly more accurate and empowering.  Again, I don’t expect everyone will share this opinion.  Just because it works for me doesn’t mean it will work for you.

For those who continue to be curious about subjective reality, here are some analogies to further explain subjective reality and its relationship to objective reality:

The lens analogy

A perspective is a particular lens with which you can view reality.  Let’s say that subjective reality is a red lens, and objective reality is a blue lens.  Now as you look through the blue lens, prove to me that the red lens is real.

That request doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  First of all, if you’re looking through the blue lens, you may be able to find the red lens if you’re lucky, but it won’t look red.  It will probably look magenta to you.  But you have no way to discern the difference between a true red lens and a genuine magenta one — through your blue lens they both look the same.  So this will be a very confusing and frustrating search.

Now let’s suppose you manage to find a genuine red lens with the help of a friend who isn’t stuck looking through a blue lens.  As long as you keep looking through the blue lens, your perceptions of the red lens will be limited in their accuracy, even though you can trust that it’s a red lens you’re looking at.  Everything your friend tells you about this red lens will seem a little bit off because you’ll be seeing something different.

To understand subjective reality not only requires putting down the blue lens but also picking up the red one and peering through it for a while.  If you look through the red lens while still wearing the blue one, you’ll get something entirely different from subjective reality — you’ll merely be studying subjective reality’s projection onto on objective framework, which will make it seem far more complex and incomprehensible than it really is.

The lens of subjective reality (red) and the lens of objective reality (blue) are incompatible with each other.  They are contradictory beliefs about reality.  You can project either system into the framework of the other, but if you do that, you’re perceiving the projection and not the true reality.

The mountain analogy

Suppose you’re standing at the base of a mountain.  You want to know what the view from the peak looks like.

As long as you remain at the base, at best you can only imagine the view from the peak.  But as you climb the mountain, you begin to get closer and closer to the view from the peak.  And when you finally arrive, you know exactly what the view from the peak is because you’re seeing it first-hand.

Now imagine a friend of yours arrives at the base and asks you about the view from the peak.  You may tell your friend, “It’s breathtaking — you have to come up and see if for yourself.  It’s well worth the climb.”  But your friend remains skeptical, wanting more details before making the journey.  So you oblige your friend and describe the mountains, the sky, the trees, the landscape… but you soon realize that mere words can’t do justice to this spectacular view.  The value is in the experience.  When the experience is reduced to mere data, criticial information is lost.

Your friend, however, takes your description as an accurate depiction of the view and says, “Well, I can see all those same things from down here too.  So why should I make the climb?  It looks like a lot of work.”

Because you can see the view from the peak, you know the climb was worthwhile.  But there’s no way to convey this to your friend unless your friend has the curiosity to find out for him/herself.  Even if you share photos and movies of the glorious view, it still reduces the experience to a mere shadow of its reality.

Similarly, any descriptions of subjective reality lose the true value.  It is a mindset that cannot be adequately conveyed in words.  There’s still some value in attempting to describe it, just as there’s value in scenic photographs, but there’s just no substitute for a first-hand experience.

The body analogy

Suppose you’re convinced that you are your left thumb and nothing more than that.  This is your total identity.  You’re certain that you’re a thumb.

What is the right thumb then?  From your perspective it is an entirely separate and autonomous thumb.  It seems similar to you, and you feel a vague sense of connectedness, but in most ways the two of you appear independent.

Now what if that other thumb comes to you one day and says, “Hey!  Do you realize you’re not just a thumb?  You’re the whole human body?”

To you that is like saying, “You are God.”  It sounds ludicrous.

So you tell the other thumb, “I know you’re crazy, but I’m an open-minded thumb, so I’ll give you a chance.  Prove to me that I’m the whole body.”

Your friend replies, “I cannot prove to you that you’re the whole body while you cling to the perspective that you’re only a thumb.  You have to release that belief first.  Then I can begin to show you that you’re a body that has a thumb, not merely a thumb by itself.”

And you say, “But I cannot let go of the belief that I’m a thumb.  I’m certain of it.  Wait — I can prove it to you.  See… I can move my own thumb body, but I cannot move yours.  That proves I’m only a thumb.”

Your friend says, “That proves you believe you’re a thumb, but the only way to prove you’re not the whole body is to believe you’re the body and see if you can do more than a mere thumb can.”

You reply, “I’m unwilling to do that unless you can show me some proof first.  Believing I’m more than a thumb is so crazy as to be unbelievable.”

Your friend says, “From the perspective that you’re really the whole body, the belief that you’re only a thumb is far more crazy.  It limits your existence immensely.  In truth the reason you’re unwilling to test the possibility that you’re the whole body is that you’re afraid… afraid of what it will mean if in fact you are the whole body and have been living unnecessarily as a thumb this whole time.  You fear the power and the responsibility that the larger role would entail.  You would also lose the ability to complain about your thumb ailments, unwilling to admit that you’ve been the cause all along.  You’ve become attached to the illusion of security from life as a thumb.”

Your friend continues, “If you wish to believe you’re only a thumb, that is entirely your choice.  But the perspective that you’re the whole body is nevertheless there for the taking when you’re ready to let go of your fear and claim it.  You can deny that role as long as you like, but remaining a thumb only allows you to give away control, never responsibility.  Deep down you know your greatest fear isn’t that a whole body belief system will cripple your ability to function as a thumb.  Your greatest fear is that you really are a whole body, and what will that mean?  It will make you responsible for the entire body, and you feel totally inadequate to the task.  But in truth you’re already responsible; making yourself small serves only to feed your fears.  It’s not the real you.  Deep down you already know that you are far more than just a thumb.”

Believing you’re nothing more than a human body in a world that’s out of your control is an inherently limiting perspective, ultimately one that’s rooted in fear.  You’re free to place such limitations on your life, but when you do so, you’re essentially saying, “Let me be less than I am.”  And after living this way for so long, you begin to accept it as reality, even though it’s a reality you’ve created from a place of fear and contraction.  The alternative is to create from a place of joy and expansion, but this level of creation is not available to you as long as you cling to the belief that you’re “just a body.”


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