Forwards and Backwards

Getting things backwards can bite you in the back. Getting your relation to reality backwards can ruin your whole life.

What does that mean, a relation to reality? Well, think of your car. Some people relate to the car as a mechanic relates to his tools. They regard it as a utility to be kept clean and repaired when necessary. If it won't start, they look for a cause. Others relate to the car as to a robotic friend. They regard it with affection and trust. If it won't start, they feel betrayed.

There are more than two ways of relating to a car, but there are only two basic ways of relating to reality: reasonably and unreasonably. Thatís because you relate to reality by thinking about it.

Thinking consists of telling the differences between things, and finding the relationships among things. When you regard differences and relationships as observed facts, then the name for that is reality. Once you have that idea, then you can ask what your personal relationship is to that reality. If it does not please you, do you look for causes, or do you feel betrayed?

One of the tasks of childhood is to figure out principles of what to do when reality is not pleasing. Do I resign myself, or figure out what can be changed, or just demand changes? Do I look for causes, or feel betrayed?

The reasoning approach to figuring out how to alter relationships is called objective, because it centers on the object: observed facts. The emotional approach of just demanding changes is called subjective, because it centers on the subject: the demander. Since demands can have effect only on other people, and never on things, you wonder why anyone would ever choose this unreasonable way of confronting reality.

But people are part of reality. If as a child I am surrounded by people who obey demands, then my generalization can be: reality obeys my demands. I can get things backwards. I can decide that I don't conform to reality, it conforms to me. Eventually, experience will disabuse me of this notion. But meanwhile, I will be forming habits, based on the idea that reality conforms to me. I may, without full awareness, form the habit of feeling betrayed by reality, and trying to get things by demanding them.

To check if you have such habits, look at what makes you mad. Anger comes from a perception of injustice. If people make you angry, you are feeling betrayed by them, which can be reasonable. If reality as such makes you angry, you are feeling betrayed by it, which cannot be reasonable.

If you are mad at reality, the fix is to learn how to handle reality. Change the habit of making demands into the habit of analyzing. Concentrate on causes, not complaints. Readjust your relation to reality. When reality bites, it is because you got that backwards.

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