Clients will sometimes describe how certain things
seem to happen for them in their lives, and by way of softening the blow either
for me, or for their observing ‘other self’, they will add in this
rider: “I know it sounds weird and you’ll think I’m stupid but …”
and stupid to. I always reassure them by endorsing myself thus, “There’s no
need to concern yourself about being weird or feeling stupid. In my world
anything and everything goes – and I subscribe to and regularly go to some pretty
fanciful places myself. Wacky is mainstream in my book – because nothing is
real in this world except that real which we are making up in every part of our
When we are in a dream state of unconsciousness some
fairly oddball and off the wall things happen there too. But compared to our
conscious experiences, which are all REAL aren’t they (?), our dreams can be really odd and wacky.
“I had a really weird dream last night. I wonder what the meaning is?”
Our dreams are a melange
of random re-presented occurrences, cherry-picked from recent experience, all
interlaced with unconscious metaphor drawn from content or context. Our
unconscious gathers together all these ingredients and then blends them together
using a particular recipe of choice. It’s a kind of multi-sensual stir-fry,
cooked up in a mental wok. No eye-rolling please – I did say I was weird and
wacky after all.
waking experience is SO real? That is curious because they are both taking
place in our head after all.
“Come on, Pete – the sunshine is real – the pain from the cut in my leg is real
– the chair I’m sat in is real. Or are you telling me that’s not so?”
Well, look at it this way – the sun is real out
there in the cosmos, but our individual perception of it, and the sunshine, and
the warmth, and the light … is made up. Your experience of all those things
differs from mine. Likewise with the chair.
And as for the pain from the cut in your leg – well I can see the cut, the
injury, the tissue damage, but I cannot feel the pain. It is YOUR pain – and
yet, before you knew you’d cut it, did you feel any pain? Injury usually
equates to pain so, for you, did the pain come first or knowledge of
Many years ago I injured my knee on a Saturday and never felt any pain until after
the operation on the Monday. So where was it in the meantime?
People who have phantom limb pain – where is it all taking place?
the brain – I’ll grant you that. But it IS really felt, not pretend. It is
quite involuntary so how can you say we’re making it up?”
neuro-physiological message of tissue damage, of injury. That’s the ‘feel’ part
of the pain. Plus we can mask or inhibit the ‘damage’ message as well.
That’s why the chemical solution works; that’s why the hypnotic solution works.
The thing about pain is that we can become very familiar with it, grade its
intensity, make a whole range of meanings about it; we have a set of beliefs
around those meanings as well.
One of those meanings is our ‘pain threshold’ – the ‘made-up’
tipping point that turns it from minor irritation to something serious. When we
mask, inhibit or diminish the message to a point below the threshold, the
emotional palette is not invoked.
invoke – no pain. No hurt – no cry!
somewhat involuntary way as well – you bet we make it up!
In our dreams we still “feel” the real stuff without
ever questioning any of its normality. If, in part of a dream, we are walking
along a beach or a river bank, we never question the content unless there’s
something ‘different’ about it – like purple water or two suns in the sky, let’s
say. We totally accept the reality of the ordinary that takes place in our
dreams. And yet – that too is made up. Every thing and everything in our dream
is made up.
dreams, and some of the imaginary experiences too – the constructs, the
what-ifs, the I’d like-to’s. The only conscious construct we don’t really seem
to replicate is time, however. Everything that happens in a dream is played out
right in the NOW – there is no future or past.
So, at an unconscious level, there are many
metaphors populating the landscape, and no time. Interesting.
I was coaching with some of our club’s 15 year olds
recently and, as is often the case with these guys, some odd comments come out
of the woodwork.
“When was the first time a human being milked a cow?” came the question from
one, followed shortly by another who enquired, “How did they know it was milk?”
an inquisitive perspective upon life, context and content. It matches the
question I was asked about a year ago at an After School cricket club: “Did
Gandhi ever play cricket, and if so was he good at it?”
These instances when the enquiring youthful mind is
allowed free expression are something of a liberation, for them, from a world
that demands their conformity, and a world that – for them to ‘get on’ –
already has, is, and will continue to mould and shape their views.
sounds of thoughts coming off the wall, since it is a reassurance that the “real”
world is being challenged. And when it is – new views and solutions to current
problems are just around the corner.
Consider the moment JUST as the wheel was invented
“Hey guys, look at this weird contraption Leone has just made!” Shouts one of
the other inventors at the Ancient Inventors Atelier, as Mr Thick stands proudly
showing off yet another masterpiece of “ideas in action”. All the inventors
gather round. “What does it do?” says another, and Leone shows them. As he
proudly rotates the wheel on the workbench they all start laughing. “Is that
it? It just goes round and round? Well that’s brilliant Leone,” they echo with
more than a hint of sarcasm. “All we need now is for someone to devise the game
of Rolette!” More laughter ensues and they each return to their own inventor’s
when he heard someone say “Rolette”. “Yes,” he thought. “What happens if I roll
it? Let’s see!”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
You may scoff – but can you prove otherwise? Is that as real an account of what
happened as any of the others purported to be real. In Neolithic times they
didn’t have inventors’ workshops, or did they? We don’t know – however, maybe
Bill and Ted do!
So what am I
getting at here, really?
We are limited by the conventionality of our
thinking; we are beset by the emotional ravages of our thinking; our thinking
gets in the way of our doing. In the midst of this thought run riot lies the
landscape of much of our modern lives.
Usually by this time they’ve had enough of the riot they’re experiencing – or at
least they think they’ve had enough. To paraphrase Bill and Ted. They’ve
forgotten how to “Party On Dude!”
You remember I said we made up our reality?
I believe I can’t do X – is that real?
I don’t have enough time to do Y – is that real?
light bulb are you going to make before you’ll be convinced it ain’t gonna
“As many as it takes, because I know it’s
possible – it’s just a matter of how.”
“Really? How do you know that Thomas?”
“Bill and Ted showed me!”