Lessons From Living in a Subjective Reality

Following the rise in popularity of the simulation hypothesis, I decided to return to the concept of subjective reality. I’ve read about it a lot but never gave it a proper shot.

You probably think you live in an objective reality, in which there exists a physical universe and you are an organism living on a planet in that universe. This organism has a brain whose electrical signals give rise to the consciousness you identify as “You”.

Subjective reality (SR) is a belief system that says consciousness is primary and it is the container within which the physical world arises. Just like a dream. When you are dreaming, everything in that dream is created by your mind. There are no “other people”, they are all a part of you.

Just like in a dream, what you experience is filtered by your beliefs. If you believe the world is a dangerous place that’s what you will experience. If you believe people are inherently good, that will mostly show up. If you believe you have no control over the events around you and things happen randomly, that’s what you’ll see. If you think all of this is bullshit and the world is totally objective, that’s what you’ll get. 😛

You can’t actually prove whether reality is subjective or objective. None of those belief systems are necessarily true. They’re just lenses through which you look at and experience reality. You can find adequate explanations for every phenomenon under any lens. Of course, there are other systems as well. So I’m not interested in discussing which of these is “True”. From a SR point of view, I would only be discussing other parts of myself anyway. 😀

If you want more info, Steve Pavlina wrote an excellent Q&A about subjective reality (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). He wrote a LOT more about the topic, but this is a good intro and addresses the obvious questions and issues people have with this concept. At least check Part 1 out before stamping it with a TL;DR. 🙂

I’ve been experimenting with this worldview for a few weeks now, trying to look at life through the subjective lens 24/7. It’s been tough holding that perspective since its so different to how my mind operates by default. It takes a lot of my mental resources to hold this belief while doing day-to-day things, talking with people and planning for the future. But I’m slowly getting the hang of it and hopefully it will soon become automatic so I can operate like that on autopilot.

Now for the obvious question: Why the fuck would you want to do such a thing? 😀

Well, first off, I’ve wanted to try this for a long time, but never gave it my full attention. I want to see what it’s like on the other side, how deep the rabbit hole goes. Can my results in life improve with a drastically different belief system? Can I reprogram my reality just by changing how I think and feel? Second, it’s reversible. I can always go back to viewing life through an objective lens if this doesn’t work out. And third, it’s fun. I’m obsessed with metacognition and this is forcing me to constantly be aware of what I’m thinking about and improve it.

Major shifts

There are a few lessons I’ve already learned that would be useful even with an objective perspective. I’ll draw parallels with dreaming and lucid dreaming for easier explanations. It will take a while for me to completely internalize these, but here they are, in no particular order.

1. Trust life

Do you believe this world is dangerous, violent and unfair? Or do you think the world doesn’t care what happens to you and it’s all arbitrary or deterministic? What’s your relationship with life in general?

It became obvious that my relationship with “Life” exists entirely in my mind. So I have the possibility to trust life or distrust it. What kind of life would I lead with each of those possibilities? I decided that implicitly trusting life was a more intelligent approach. Compare it to how you think about the dreamworld when you are sleeping. Does the dream care? Is it dangerous? Only if you believe it is.

If I distrusted life I would be a lot more suspicious and trying to protect myself. That’s not how I want to live. Also, trusting life does not mean I would be naive or stupid. It means that I trust that life is always on my side. Everything that happens to me is either helpful, playful or educational. I might get screwed over on occasion, but with this mindset I can reframe any setback or pain as a life lesson. If I fail at something, I extract the lessons and move on.

2. Take responsibility for EVERYTHING

In a dream, everything that happens is your responsibility. It’s in your head after all. It’s your subconscious that’s projecting those experiences. You can’t blame anyone else because your dream sucked.

Similarly, if reality is indeed subjective, then everything that’s going on within it is my responsibility. If I see a lot of war, objectively it means that there are entities “out there” fighting. Subjectively it means that there’s fighting within my consciousness and I need to resolve it internally i.e. become a more peaceful person.

Even if you don’t buy into the subjective lens, I think it’s smart to adopt universal responsibility for everything in your life because you’re the one that has to suffer the results of what happens. If you have a shitty job, you might blame your boss, the economic crisis or whatever. But responsibility is different from blame. Who’s to blame for you still staying at that job if it’s so bad?

You might blame your partner for your shitty relationship, and it really might bi his/her fault, but you’re suffering the consequences so it’s your responsibility to change that. Have an honest, deep conversation or break it up. Same goes for the political situation in your country. Start making changes or go live somewhere else.

It boils down to giving your power away. You’re giving your personal ability to control your life to your boss, partner, government etc. But it’s yours.

2.1. Rejection >> Resistance

To put it simply, resistance is complaining + continuing the status quo, and rejection is surrender + changing course. If you were having a lucid dream, you wouldn’t resist and complain about a bad situation and stay in it. You would say “You suck! Worst dream ever! I’m done with you and off to create something better.” You understand that you created the previous scenario and have the power to change it.

Similarly, feeling bad and complaining about my problems is a totally useless thing to do (objectively and subjectively). If there’s a problem that means I created it. So I surrender and accept the reality of my situation. And from that place I can start making changes.

 2.2. Money is not a power source

Objectively, money represents social value. If you have lot’s of money, it means the world owes you a lot of goods and services which you can get for giving up that money.  Ideally, the more you contribute to the people around you, the more money you make. That’s not always the case, of course. But that’s how the system is supposed to work.

Money is just a piece of paper or a number in a computer database. A plaything. Imagine playing a video game where your only goal is to achieve a higher score. Maximizing a number. It might be fun for a while, but sooner or later it would become boring. The same goes for money. What would make the game of life more interesting, instead of collecting more and more money?

There’s only so much motivation I can summon up to earn more cash. And by believing money has power of it’s own I reduce my own power (the ability to live the life I want). Subjectively, more money does not equal more power. Anything I can achieve with money I can achieve some other way, instead of focusing on the “middleman”.

3. Get super clear about what you want

What happens in a lucid dream when you don’t know what you want to do? The dream goes on with it’s initial story or does something random. Same thing if you don’t know what you want in a SR scenario. Your life continues on the course it was already on, with some random events here and there (because you believe random shit sometimes happens). Like going to a restaurant and just ordering “food”. The waiter will be confused, but if you insist, you’ll get something random.

If I want to create positive improvements in my life, I have to get really clear on what I want. Continuing with the restaurant analogy, I can order something off the menu that I know is delicious, choose something I’ve never tried before, or ask for the chef to create something totally original for me. 🙂

When I’m not sure what I want in different areas in my life, the best idea is to go into explorer mode. Pick something that seems reasonably interesting and go for it. Try a 30-day trial. I’ll gain clarity along the way and adjust course.

4. What you focus on expands

In a dreamworld, whatever gets the most attention tends to increase. Everything else slowly fades away. Although, you cannot deny what you already created.

For example, if I owed someone money, and tried to ignore it, the debt wouldn’t go away (because I believe it won’t :P). But by focusing on that debt all the time I would create much more dread, frustration and creditor calls.

A smarter choice would be to focus on creativity and contribution, which will expand in my reality. That may have a side effect of improving my finances which help eliminate debt.

  *   *   *

I know all of this sounds crazy. I might be completely wrong about this. But it was too interesting to resist. 😛 I’ll just remind you that beliefs are lenses and you can change them at will and not get to attached to them. Big perspective shifts allow you to learn things about yourself even if you go back to your default belief system later. But who knows, you might be tempted to update the default one.

This post has a slightly different writing style, because I’m writing more for myself than for others. But hey, within a SR, that’s the same thing. 😀

I encourage you to experiment with belief systems drastically different from what you hold now, just to see what happens. You could try being a Buddhist for a month to see what kind of results that would produce. Then next month try being an atheist. Or pick and combine beliefs from different systems.

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