How Important is Reality?

Just how important is reality or perhaps isn’t?

The reason why this question has come up on my agenda recently is that I recently went to see, in my humble opinion, a fantastic film – The Greatest Showman. A year or so ago I watched a film called ‘LaLa Land’, some of you may have seen it, it had loads of positive reviews that critics loved it, it won a ton of Oscars and when I watched it I was so bored. If you haven’t seen it let me give you the storyline because seriously I’m not ruining anything for you, two people meet, they fall in love, they break up, they meet other people after they’ve broken up, they see each other again across a crowded bar and that’s it, that’s the whole story.

LaLa Land kind of ruined musical films for me for a good long while however this week I was brave and I watched The Greatest Showman and I loved it as in I want to watch it again and again. It was so, so, so, so good and the music in it is, in my humble opinion, phenomenal so I posted on my facebook to share the joy with everybody else and probably nine out of ten people who had seen it also loved it, there were a couple of people who were less enthusiastic shall we say. One fellow hypnotherapist made some comments which I found really rather interesting and this is not a direct quote but it was something along the lines of:

“It was a good film and the music was good however the storyline was a million miles away from the truth of the story about PT Barnum”

The person that made the comment seemed a little bit aggravated by this it’s just something I picked up in the tone of how it was written obviously that may not be the case because there is no tonality in reading people’s words. I started to wonder well who cares, you know, it’s a great movie and it made me feel good and apparently it’s made quite a lot of other people feel good as well so does it really matter if the story that’s told later is different to this story that actually happened in reality?

From an NLP perspective and on on a moral level, I have a huge subscription to the idea of telling the truth as much as I possibly can even to the extent that sometimes it might be detrimental to some of my relationships but for the sake of a clear conscience and getting a good night’s sleep I really like the idea of being upfront and honest with people because it keeps my conscience clean but in the NLP world it seems like that is not necessarily the case and here’s why.

There are certain processes within NLP that we use which deliberately get people to think about old events in very different ways to the way in which they happened in real life, let me give you an example. If somebody has had a traumatic experience in their past and they’re still having problems with their old event years and years later then one of the processes that we could use with them could be a sub-modality intervention or fast phobia cure. When we do those interventions we

explicitly ask the client to begin to see the old event in a different way, perhaps we take the colour out of it or we shrink it down maybe even put some comedy voices in there, some overlaying of baby giggling, all sorts of different things in order to change the impact that that memory had. But now the memory isn’t true anymore, it’s not an accurate reflection of the real-life situation.

So is it really important that we subscribe so heavily to reality in our lives? For me, the things I’ve been able to achieve in my life have definitely come about as a result of a slightly bonkers imagination but I wouldn’t be without that because I wouldn’t have got to where I am now if I hadn’t have had the creativeness and ability to distort my situation in positive ways. in order to move it on to better things later on. From my perspective, if we are able to take something and make it better then why not! Why not almost like divorce ourselves from reality a little bit, I also tend to think that the human brain isn’t necessarily geared up for dealing with reality anyway.

As you know when we take information in through our brains we’re being bombarded with stuff which we cannot effectively process because there is quite simply too much of it, so some of the information just gets outright deleted and we never knew that it was there in the first place, not on a conscious level anyway. Some of it is distorted, so it gets changed in some ways, it might get over-exaggerated or minimised and some of it is generalised upon to link it up with a ton of other stuff that maybe it didn’t realistically link up with but that enables us to be able to process all of that information that’s coming in through our senses so that we can begin to make some form of sense of the world.

Often in NLP when we refer to that processing of information we talk about it in chunks of information or bits, which does make it sound like computers and actually that’s completely inaccurate because human beings are really nothing like computers, in fact, computers are dealing way more effectively with reality than human beings are.  If you complete a word document on your computer and then save it later on, when you go back to it, maybe six months later, a year later, three years later you’re still gonna get the same word document that you had created in the first place, unless you have some kind of fault with your computer but on the whole, your computer is going to stick up on the screen the exact piece of work that you had created way back in time.

The human brain doesn’t work like that, not only are we deleting, distorting and generalising on the information that we take in from one moment to the next but we also repeat that process each time we recall a memory or an experience that we’ve had in the past. Why? Well because our state gets in the way depending on what we’re doing at that moment and how we’re thinking and feeling at that moment of recalling, we could then end up having a very different experience of the memory.

I’ll give you another example, I have to confess I have seen The Greatest Showman twice so far and I’m planning a third watch. The first time around that I watched the film, I was in a bit more of a stress state and it was after work, I was running late and It was just a stressful situation. There was a scene in the film where the main character was speaking with his family having just got the sack from his job and I’m not spoiling anything here, by the way, his daughters were asking him about making wishes. Now there was a way in which I interpreted that particular portion of the storyline which made me think that he had forgotten his daughter’s birthday, the very first time I watched the film and heard that portion of the story. I was operating from the belief that he had forgotten his daughter’s birthday and this was accounting for the things that he said and how he was reacting but when I watched the film the second time around, it was a lot more chilled out and when I watched the film for a second time around, I realised that I’d completely got the wrong end of the stick the first time because he was actually toying with his daughter, he was messing about with her and pretending to have forgotten her birthday.

I like to think that I’m a fairly astute character, that I’m quite good at tuning into these things but apparently state affects even me! So this is why when we have a recall of a memory or experience from the past we might end up changing that memory or experience as we recall it based on our present state. This means that we could end up deleting, distorting and generalising upon our memories in different ways every single time we remember them. Computers are going to be much more reliable in terms of representing accurate information compared to a human being, human beings are not quite so accurate when doing that process.

I like to think that if you’re creative and you have a good imagination then good for you, just make sure you do find things with it. Very often people use their imaginations to trip themselves up in unhelpful ways, for example, people who have phobias have great imaginations, they’re really good at imagining worst-case scenarios but it’s not the best way for them to be able to use their imagination, it could be put to much better use however instead they use it for the purposes of

seeing man eating spiders sitting on their face and things like that. If you’re using your imagination for positive purposes and you know really who cares about the fact that it’s different to the reality of what’s really going on in life. Sometimes what’s going on in life, you might want some time out from there, ultimately it’s all about your intention if you have an imagination which you are using to harm yourself or

to mislead others then maybe being away from reality isn’t such a good thing but if your intentions are good, if you’re using your imagination to be creative, to help change the world in wonderful, powerful, meaningful ways or maybe just to change your own world in wonderful and powerful and meaningful ways then that is, in my humble opinion, a very good thing.

Imagination is an art form, so being able to utilise it and escape from reality for a little while can be a truly wonderful thing and if you can use it for the purposes of making yourself and/or others happy then that indeed is an even better thing to be using your imagination for. In the words of PT Barnum:

‘The noblest art is that of making others happy’.

By Gemma Bailey