This thesis has two applications, both literal, but only one objective.
First, your perception of reality is reality, insomuch as singular subjects we cannot comprehend all of reality, only that which our senses detect and our intellect is able to interpret and contextualize. This has many forms that we don’t need to get into here, but a quick example would be seeing a tree and recognizing that it belongs to the category “tree,” which then provides you a predictive model for the properties of the object and how it will act.
Second, as humans are empowered with the capacity to imagine as well as utilize tools, we create objects that are fundamentally missing from nature absent humans, and those objects are an alteration of reality. An example would be a house, which is more than some human replication of a cave but if viewed as a cave, then we can say that humans have created a world of caves. There are also all the complex machines that we use every day (and you are reading this article on one) which alter what “distance” even means.
The first application is really where I think things are interesting right now. In terms of perception, we have most of the west occupying two distinct realities seemingly occupying the same objective space, and these realities are vastly different.
For one group of people, there is an omnipresent threat in the form of a deadly virus, and it will strike if you ever let your guard down.
For everyone else, it’s Tuesday.
Except that this otherwise normal Tuesday is interrupted by the wailing of some strange religious zealots, who demand that everyone engage in their rituals lest a pervasive, uncaring Death God strike them dead for the unpiety of the people.
Cartoonist etc. Scott Adams described this phenomenon surrounding Trump and Trump Derangement Syndrome in the movie Hoaxed as people watching two different movies. In one of those movies, a Hitler-esc right-wing dictator ruled America, while in the other movie a patriotic businessman was struggling to fix America.
From whence do these two realities emerge? Why have they grown so diverse over the last few years?
The answer is perception, filtering, and what I am going to call Thought reinforcement.
As I stated earlier, your own perception of reality is indistinguishable from some objective reality at the subject level. Thus, the output is determined by inputs. One group of people is receiving (and accepting) inputs that focus on the deadliness of the virus, as well as what sort of things they can do to avoid it. The other group of people receives less of this, or rejects the input.
This is the second phenomenon that I believe is affecting this schism of reality – the filtering of perception.
For lots of people, the media has been caught in so many lies and distortions of reality (in the more objective sense) that anything they say is automatically rejected, at least initially. It’s a bit like going through the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland. If you know that everything inside is an illusion or a clever set-piece, there is nothing scary about it. If you enter thinking it is in fact a real ghost house, you are going to get scared. You aren’t even going to be looking for the sources of the illusion.
The two different realities are the result of two different inputs and two different filters. This is why a right-winger can turn on CNN and not become a communist, or a left-winger can turn on Fox news and not become “conservative.” The filters stop the data from affecting perception.
The last part, which is an extension of filtering, is thought reinforcement, and this is where I think things start to get really interesting. TDS is highly dependent on the ability to not just filter information, but actively reinforce some things and not others internally. To think Trump was a dictator requires one to actively engage in reality construction.
In other words, people construct a narrative in their minds, tell it to themselves, and then add it to their filter. Sensory information that fits the narrative becomes an input; information that does not is filtered out either actively (the source is deemed untrustworthy) or subconsciously (they literally forget about it or don’t perceive it at all).
If this phenomenon seems far out, it’s really not. It’s what fundamentally underpins Cognitive Behavior Therapy. The fact that it can also be used in brainwashing or self-hypnosis should therefore not seem strange, either. What your mind focuses on becomes your reality. The stories you tell yourself—about the world, people, your own situation—become real.
The inevitable next question is why do people persist in realities that make them miserable?
Psychologists might debate this, but I think there are two answers. First, they are not aware that they make their own reality. Second, the miserable reality actually gives them something that they think they need. Remember that “negative emotions” such as anger and fear exist to enhance our survival. A mindset built around fear and anger is a response to danger stimulus, and thus we return to the inputs of perception.
In other words, the extreme emotive responses, as well as the medicalized rituals that one reality has in abundance are actually rational, from a certain perspective.
I personally believe the ramping-up of emotions like the above is a result of a kind of cognitive dissonance. We had lockdowns and mask mandates and yet the virus persists. One must therefore come to two conclusions if engaging in binary thinking: either the rituals don’t work, or they do work but we didn’t do them enough.
This is where I make the religious connection. God has not provided safety because the people have not offered up the correct sacrifices; they have not kept the Vestal flame alight, and thus we are damned. This is the resolution to the dissonance—it is not that these things don’t work, it’s that they don’t work unless you do them too.
If you want my personal opinion about these rituals, it is that they do work, but not with anything approaching certainty. I engaged in more extreme precautions last year than the people demanding you wear two masks. I wore N95 gear and goggles. I wore gloves and washed my hands. I still got sick. It’s not that the virus is a special magic thing that doesn’t act like any other virus, it’s just that there are still many variables that can’t be accounted for. A careful driver can still be struck by a drunk, but we wouldn’t then conclude that it is pointless to be cautious.
The truth is, most people are not comfortable with uncertainty, and indeed they operate as if everything in their life can be planned and mitigated by their own actions, and when they discover that they cannot control things, they resort to reality construction to restore their sense of security. If that means the virus is magic and can only be controlled through constant ritual, that will be the reality they live in.
And to them, it is real.
For my part, uncertainty is something that I’ve grown comfortable with. One of the biggest lessons that has been forced on me throughout my life is that I am not in control. I can do my reasonable best to plan, but ultimately, I am not in charge.
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