Do you view the glass as half-full, or half-empty? Perhaps you subscribe to one of the two main perspectives on this, or perhaps you deviate from the standard and think of some other clever way to look at it. The amount of liquid in the container was never important, but rather how we perceived the reality of it.
So what is reality? Is it subjective? Is it simply truth? Is reality different for you than it is for me? Is it absolute?
Our brains are wonderfully powerful and complex machines. For centuries, people have understood that changing your perspective on something can have very real physical and physiological effects. This principle runs in the veins of phrases like “mind over matter,” “fake it till you make it,” and “the power of positivity.”
So this should be simple, right? Just take a sad song, and make it better! When you’re feeling blue, just switch up, look at things different, and see the bigger picture, right?
Well, it’s not so easy when all the signals filling our brain are telling us to be sad, angry, jealous, or discouraged. Ask anyone who has been through depression, and they will tell you that it does not seem like a choice at all!
I think the big problem with the power of our perspective is that is can blind us to the ACTUAL reality of a situation. This was best illustrated to me in an obscure scene from a great movie entitled “Meet the Robinsons.”
Our main character had a childhood friend named “Goob.” In a flashback to Goob’s origin story of sorts, we are taken to the eve of a big baseball game where Goob was kept up all night by his friend loudly working on an invention. The next day, due to his sleep deprivation, Goob fell asleep in the outfield and missed the catch that could have won the game. The next scene shows Goob walking through the halls of his school the next few days. Despite many of his classmates saying “hi” and trying to engage in friendly banter with him, Goob narrated the experience by saying “they all hated me!”
This struck me! His classmates were clearly trying to be friendly and include him, but he was convinced that they all hated him! His projected reality became more real than actual reality!
Do we ever do this? I know I have. It is far too easy to be led by our fears until they become our reality. We are in danger of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy when we act upon a certain notion long enough that, while it was not true initially, it becomes true.
Think about it – If we believe something to be true, even if it is just in our mind, we act upon it as though it were true. Naturally, others then react to our actions and assume it to be true as well, which further cements the true nature of the idea in our minds until we’ve essentially made our fears come true in some negative-feedback-loop-social-placebo-effect-of-doom! [Bonus points for hyphen-ization-ness-ity]
However, fear is not unconquerable. I often think of fear as “False Evidence Appearing Real” because that is all it is. False realities often present themselves to us, and all too often we listen, and panic at the thought of them coming true. An itsy-bitsy spider will not destroy you and all your family simply by crawling on you, yet so many people have an irrational fear of those cute little arachnids.
Many movies have played into this faux-reality concept: Divergent, The Matrix, Inception, etc… They also seem huge and life-altering, whereas outside of phobias, most of the time we don’t even notice or care that we accept small false realities in our lives.
We need to guard and control what thoughts go in and out of our mind. Any castle would have had giant fortified walls. These walls serve to keep things out and to keep things in. Our minds are similar. However, not everything we have let inside our minds is good, and not everything outside of our minds is bad. Thus we need a gate.
Our perspective is a big part of an effective gate. What things do we consider good to let in? Often, the majority rule applies: if we’ve let a lot of negative in, our brain sees more negativity as suitable to enter, while ignoring the positive, because it doesn’t match up with our reality.
Thus sometimes we think just like Eeyore! His reality is that life is inevitably going to be terrible. His fatalist mentality tells him that even good things can turn into depressing things. “Oh bother, the others are probably going to try to get me to come outside. Not like it matters anyway…”
What would happen if Eeyore were thankful all the time? How would that change his reality? “Oh bother, I’ve got friends who care about me and accept me the way I am without expecting me to change… Oh bother, I’ve got an intelligent vocabulary for a donkey….” It wouldn’t work!
With time, determination, help, prayer, and donkey-like stubbornness, I believe it is possible to reshape a negative reality.
So, is the glass half full or half empty?
Perhaps the one who sees it as half empty is actually the optimist, since that means you can fill it with more stuff, whereas anyone who is satisfied with just half a glass of water is a pessimist? Perhaps you see it as completely full, half with air and half with water. Perhaps just you wonder who drank the other half?
Goob’s reality was that everyone hated him. Maybe Ida’s reality is that she will never be lovable. Evinrude’s reality is that he will never amount to anything in life.
What are the false realities that you’ve agreed with?
Today, like every day, you can choose the flavor of your reality. Choose wisely.