I’m noticing that it’s been somewhat difficult to refrain from political commentary in my posts as of late, but it’s also just really hard to ignore what’s going on in the world – especially when some of it relates so closely to my field of study. I’ve read some pretty interesting articles lately about alternative facts and this idea that each of us creates our own reality. And of course when you really think about it…that’s not so new. In therapy we regularly work on exploring core beliefs about oneself and actively search for evidence to determine what is accurate and what isn’t. The goal in doing this is to recognize how the stories we tell ourselves make us feel and shift them in the direction of health and productivity. Maybe we should be thanking 45 et al. for bringing light to this subject so that we can now work on this shift collectively and globally. Rather than volleying back and forth between who’s right and who’s wrong, perhaps the focus should be on why we experience such significant differences in the first place. In Tristan Bridges’ article posted on businessinsider.com, he explains the “backfire effect” where presenting “more information and actual facts challenging those [false] beliefs did not cause a change of opinion—in fact, it often had the effect of strengthening those ideologically grounded beliefs.” And in this really great article by Ronald W. Pies, the author points to the differences between deceptive lies, innocent falsehoods, confabulations and delusions and how each plays out in the context of reality. It’s true that feelings influence one’s reality and it’s also true that the facts of reality differentiate for each of us only by how much we are fixed to the falsehoods we choose to believe. In their book, A General Theory of Love, authors Thomas Lewis, M.D., Fari Amini, M.D. and Richard Lannon, M.D. offer this perplexing thought: “New scanning technologies show that perception activates the same brain areas as imagination. Perhaps for this reason, the brain cannot reliably distinguish between recorded experience and internal fantasy.” [2001, p102] Whoa. That explains a lot, right??
All this reminds of me of my favorite genre of writing: Magical Realism. Writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende figured out long ago that people have a tendency towards flexible beliefs when it comes to poetry and magic. Some readers may easily differentiate fact from fantasy, but the genre itself lends to the idea that some readers will walk away with the perception that what was read did in fact happen. Is it fair to say that religion may be loosely related to this as well? Sometimes people even advocate for unevidenced concepts inasmuch as they will help those struggling through difficult times. Still, as much as the creations in these stories seem to vividly come to life, there is still the option to check in with evidence grounded in reality; but ultimately, if you’re a healthy person, it’s your decision as to where you wish to land on the continuum.
I’ll end here with my favorite quote from Eva Luna:
Are you the one who tells stories? the stranger asked. At your pleasure, she replied. The man took five gold coins from his pocket and placed them in her hand. Then sell me a past, because mine is filled with blood and lamentation, and I cannot use it in my way through life. I have been in so many battles that somewhere out there I forgot even my mother’s name, he said. She could not refuse him, because she feared that there before her in the plaza the stranger would shrivel into a pile of dust – which is what happens to those who are not blessed with good memories. …She began to speak. All that afternoon and all that night she spun her tale… she wanted to offer him the novel of his life – from his birth to the present day… Finally it was dawn and with the first light of day she could tell that the odor of melancholy had faded from the air. ~ Isabel Allende
Copyright 2017 © Rachel Braun, All rights reserved.
Rachel Braun, ATR-BC Art Therapist Philadelphia, PA
Specializing in art therapy groups for women who experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders.