The world isn’t as it appears.
Or rather, it’s only as it appears.
Because it’s made-up. By your brain.
Your brain co-constructs your experience of reality.
There is no absolute reality
For ages people have argued that there is an absolute, objective reality that exists “out there” independently of human awareness. (And that certain powers deserve more authority over other human beings because they have access to that absolute truth.)
Perhaps there is an absolute truth, and that one day we humans we will be able to confirm this.
But as it is right now, we can’t.
We’re bound by our human consciousness. To know for certain this absolute truth we’d need to be all-seeing and all-knowing. But we’re clearly not (not even with all our technology).
Subjectivity is where it’s at
It’s a debate that’s long dead. And unproductive — because arguing over what’s right and what’s wrong and what’s the surefire way through the gates of heaven is a waste of precious time.
It’s a distraction from subjectivity. You know, actually living your life? Actually being engaged. Actually responding to events rather than theorizing or fretting about them.
Brain science tells us so
Even so, people cling to a foundationalist notion of the world. Where morality is a thing that can be measured. Where you’re either right or you’re wrong.
That’s not how things really work. Right and wrong are human constructions that we’ve used to cope with this crazy thing called living.
Study the brain enough, you’ll see.
Your reality is what you perceive
Professor George Pollak teaches neurobiology at the University of Texas and serves on the Executive Committee of the Institute for Neuroscience.
At an honors philosophy lecture in spring of 2007, he explained:
“What is so captivating about sensory physiology is that the world we perceive is not absolute reality, although we think it is, at least I do. What we believe to be reality is only the world that our sensory receptors tell us about the various energies in the world, light, sound, chemicals in the air.”
(Transcribed by Jennifer Doyle for the Texas Neuroscience Review, Volume 1)
It’s only a matter of time before word gets around. Before people slowly wake up to how the brain really works. Before our beloved foundationalist notion of our world turns on its side.
Your brain pulls the strings
Pollak went on to say:
“But that is only half of what is required. Our brains then have to construct that sensory information into ‘perceptions.’ In other words, how we perceive the world and everything in it is limited by the information provided by our sensory receptors and then by the particular computations that our brains perform on that information. Our reality is nothing more than that which our brains construct for us.”
And this doesn’t even take into account that spooky action at a distance Einstein was talking about. Quantum entanglement only turns our notion of the physical world even more on its side.
Your neurobiology is unique
Pollak continued his point with a scenario you literally can’t know (because you don’t have the sensory experience to draw from):
“Now comes the spooky part: if our receptors were different or if our brains operated differently, the world we perceive would be vastly different from the one we experience every day.”
Dolphins and ants live in a different world than you do. Of course, it’s the same basic stuff out there, but they construe that stuff in vastly different ways.
And how you construe your world makes a huge difference in how you experience life, respond to it, and how happy and healthy you are.
Your neurobiology is complex
And of course the brain doesn’t live in a vacuum. It’s not a computer with a finite set of software that determines your reality for you.
Your experience, and how you interpret it, plays an active role in shaping your programs.
Your beliefs, in particular, hold heavy weight. They influence how you think and feel, respond or react.
And it’s a feedback loop: how you think and feel, respond or react in turn influences your belief systems. It goes on and on.
In short, your brain is a predicting machine. It uses anything it can to keep on predicting what will happen in the future, so that you can survive.
It will even use dysfunctional beliefs and cognitive distortions — if they kept you alive in the past. (Keeping you healthy and happy is actually a separate and complicated thing, having to do with complexity of the human brain.)
You co-create your reality
This means that you have a lot of say in how you co-construct your world.
Not in a law-of-attraction way where your thoughts materialize as Mercedes and other shiny objects.
In a down-to-earth way, that’s actually common sense if you just pay attention to how your thoughts, emotions, and your relationship to your emotions shapes how you think and feel and relate to your emotions — which ultimately guides your response ability in life. (And yes, it also goes on and on.)
So remember, you’re living in a made-up world. And you’re helping to make it.
That’s pretty powerful stuff.
P.S. Have you checked out the Mindful Construct email newsletter? It features a 10-part e-class on how your life is your construct, and a special 23-page report on the culture behind science. Sign up and find out how deep the rabbit hole goes.