Reality Strategy Exercise

Part 1:

(a) Pick some trivial thing that you did yesterday, and something you could have done but did not do. Make sure that the thing that you could have done but did not do is something that is completely within your range of behavior. If you could have put peanut butter on your ice cream, but you don't like peanut butter on your ice cream, you wouldn't really have done that anyway. Pick examples of things that you have done before (such as brushing your teeth and having a cup of tea). The only difference should be that you "actually" did do one of them yesterday - i.e., you brushed your teeth, but did not have a cup of tea (even though you could have had tea).

What is the difference?

What is the difference?

Explore Your «Reality Strategy' by Contrasting a Memory of Something that Did Happen Yesterday with Something that Could Have Happened But Did Not.

(b) Determine how you know the difference between what you did and what you could have done, but did not do. What you come up with first will typically be the most obvious reality check. You might have a picture of one and not of the other. After you make the picture, you may notice other things about it. Check the submodality differences for instance. Maybe one is a movie and the other is a still picture. Maybe one has more color or is brighter than the other, lb explore successively deeper layers of your reality strategy, take each distinction that you discover and apply it to the memory that 'did not' actually happen. That is, make the sensory qualities of your representation of the event that did not happen more and more like the one that did happen. How do you still know that one happened and one did not? Keep making the one that 'did not' happen more and more like the one that 'did' happen until you actually cannot tell the difference.

The following is a list of some of the ways in which people know something "really" happened:

1) Timing - What comes to mind first? Often we determine an experience is "real" because it is the first association we make when asked to think of something.

2) Involvement of Multiple Representational Systems - i.e., there are sights, sounds, feelings, tastes and smells associated with the experience. Usually, the more senses that are involved in a memory, the more "real" it seems.

3) Submodalities - The sensory quality of an internal experience is one of the most common reality strategies. If a mental image is associated, intense, clear, life size, etc., it seems more "real."

4) Continuity - The fit of a particular memory (its "logical flow") with the memory of other events immediately preceding and following the one upon which we are focusing. If something doesn't "fit in" with our other memories, it is likely to seem less "real."

5) Probability - Probability is an evaluation of the likelihood that something could occur based on information that we have about past behaviors. Sometimes we perceive something as not being "real" because it is 'improbable' or unlikely to have occurred, given the rest of the information that we have. (This begins to overlap with our belief or convincer strategies.)

6) Context - The degree of detail relating to the surroundings or background of some memory is another cue about how "real" it is. Often, manufactured experiences delete details about the surrounding context because they are not considered important.

7) Congruency - The degree to which some experience fits into our beliefs relating to our personal habits and values also effects our perception of its "reality." We are less likely to perceive the memory of some possible action we could have taken as "real" if it is not congruent with our beliefs about ourselves.

8) 'Meta' Memory - A person will often have a memory of having created or manipulated the imaginary experience. This 'meta' memory can be a key part of a person's reality strategy. Such 'meta' memory processes can be enhanced by having people learn how to 'mark' internal experiences that have been fabricated or manipulated; by putting an imaginary picture frame around them, for instance.

9) Accessing Cues - A key part of many reality strategies, that is often outside of people's consciousness, is the physiology associated with memory. Memories are typically accompanied by an eye movement up and to the left (for right handed people), while fantasies are accom panied by an eye movement up and to the right. While people are not usually consciously aware of such subtle cues, they may use them unconsciously to distinguish reality from fantasy.

Part II:

(c) Pick two things that happened during your childhood and determine how you know that they were real. You're going to find that it is a bit harder to determine exactly what happened back then. In Part I, you took something that happened less than 24 hours ago, and shifted your perception of reality with respect to it. When you consider something that happened 24 years ago, it's an even more interesting decision process, because your pictures may not be as clear, and may possibly be distorted. In fact, for distant memories, sometimes people know the real things that happened because they are actually fuzzier than the experiences they have made up.

(d) Think of something that did not happen in your childhood, but if it had would have made a powerfully positive impact on your life. Create an internal representation of this event. Then make the submodalities and other qualities of this fantasy match the qualities that you use in your reality strategy. How does this change your experience of your past?

In both Part I and Part II of this exercise, try to get to a point where you really have to think about which experience was real. But be careful as you begin to change the qualities of the experience that you didn't have to be represented like the experience you did have. The object of this exercise is not to confuse your reality strategies, but to find out what reality checks exist for you. Remember, your goal is to elicit your reality strategy, not disrupt it. If the process starts getting scary (which it sometimes can), you may begin to hear a swishing sound, or maybe you'll feel yourself spinning. In such cases it is appropriate and ecological to stop for a while.

Confusion with respect to one's reality strategy can lead to deep uncertainty. In fact, the inability to distinguish imagination from "reality" is considered one of the symptoms of psychosis and other severe mental disorders. Thus, understanding, enriching and strengthening one's own reality strategy can be an important source of increasing one's mental health.

The value of knowing your reality strategy is that you can use it for future pacing new experiences, so that they already seem "real." People like Leonardo da Vinci, Nicola Tesla and Wolfgang Mozart were able to create fantasies in their heads, and, by making them fit the criteria of their reality strategies, turn those fantasies into realities. They can also be used to help people develop a stronger sense of their own point of view and become clearer about their own thoughts and experiences.

When applied to generalizations and beliefs as one of the Sleight of Mouth patterns, exploring reality strategies serves to help people chunk down to discover the (frequently unconscious) representations and assumptions upon which they have built a particular belief or generalization. This can help them to either reaffirm or question the validity of the generalization, belief or judgment. It helps people to recognize that their beliefs are indeed "beliefs," as opposed to "reality." This can automatically give people more choice, and serves as a type of "meta frame" around the belief. The person becomes free to ask, "Is this really what I want to believe?" "Is this the only generalization that can be drawn from those representations and experiences?" "Am I really so certain about the experiences from which this belief is drawn to want to hold on to this belief so strongly?"

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