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Finding the Path to Self-Awareness - What is Truth?

The key to discovering your ultimate purpose - the source of happiness - finding love - building success - in attaining your goals in life can be achieved through finding the path to self awareness.
It's been suggested to me several times now that I should share my thoughts and experiences on life, living, and particularly relationships here on Vingle (by other Vinglers in other collections/etc...). The idea of writing out my experiences and how they've come to form the general philosophy by which I've chosen to live has always struck me as oddly narcissistic. To feel that what I believe is valuable enough that I must share it means I've made some sort of judgment regarding what must be perceived as a lack of value in what anyone else believes. That's simply not true of who I am and how I choose to live my life. "How I choose to live my life"... this statement is the very key to everything I believe. It is the "truth" that I've chosen to assimilate as the main functioning construct of my personal reality. "What?" I live my life day to day facing the decisions that are placed before me by applying a logic system that is born partly from my studies in neurophysiology, behavioral psychology, philosophy, and my 45 years of life experience. THE POWER OF CHOICE I do not accept that anyone else is responsible for my choices. I reject the idea that "you made me do it!" or anything along those lines. I make choices, I say or do things as a result of said choices (and even doing nothing is still a choice) and whatever is born from my actions is in my version of reality - born from my choices. This is very important for it takes the responsibility for everything I experience in life and puts it firmly in my own lap. OK... so what about something random like if I am in a car accident - blind-sided and there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. Really? I was in a car without having made the choice to be in the car? I was on this or that street because I just found myself there? If a random thing happens regardless if you accept that the choice for that thing happening can somehow be traced back to your own choices - you still have the choice to decide how the event will affect you. Choice is a vitally important concept - let me rephrase that - choice and the responsibility an individual has regarding their choices is more than conceptual for me - it is reality. It is truth. WHAT IS REALITY - WHAT IS REAL? I believe that we (humans) experience what modern neuroscience and the branches of philosophy called "Epistemology" and "Ontology" have described as a multidimensional reality/existence. Neuroscience has shown that we experience everything in life second-hand. Our sensory organs collect information which is transferred to our brains and interpreted. You don't see the green grass of a golf course in front of you; your eyes collect the light wavelength data as limited by the bandwidth frequencies the human eye operates under and that information is sent to your brain. Example - Light entering the eye is refracted as it passes through the cornea. It then passes through the pupil (controlled by the iris) and is further refracted by the lens. The cornea and lens act together as a compound lens to project an inverted image onto the retina where specialized groups of cells known as rods and cones interpret the various light wavelength data and transfer it via the optic nerve to the occipital lobe of the brain - where the information - now a series of biochemical nerve impulses - is interpreted and we perceive a visual image.
Through the philosophical discipline of epistemology the entire process of "seeing" something can be looked at - or classified in several ways. Because we are given to defining our existence - our place in the universe - by the concept of "reality" - everything that has existed, exists, or will exist - we also attempt to define reality in terms of our individual perception. This all gets really complicated - so I'll break it down in the most basic terms - what I am about to share is the basis of what I have personally come to accept through my experiences and studies as my truth - my individual take on reality.
We experience a Consensual Reality in terms of how we interact with the physical universe and how we perceive it - as a group or society. There are things we experience/witness/etc... that we can all agree on at some basic level. "The grass/turf on the golf course is a deep true green this year." Through language and more second-hand sensory - organ to brain stuff called "hearing" - we can communicate the facets of the reality we share and come to a tentative agreement forming a version of "truth" regarding the classification of these shared experiences and knowledge. Individual (Phenomenological) Reality - is a version of reality that may vary significantly from the consensus reality due to a number of differences in an individual's sensory organs when compared to those same sensory organs in any another individual. Take the green grass example above; due to the physiological differences in a person with a green color vision deficiency - the color of the grass most certainly looks very different to them than it does to a person with "normal" color vision. This small physiological difference equates to a true variation in their perception of reality. Phenomenological Reality is the term used to describe an individual's unique, personal, and subjective version of reality.
So what is "TRUTH"? I believe that in the context of your own personal reality; it is whatever you decide and believe it to be. Religion is a perfect example of how a broader, consensual concept can be made through personal experience and thought, into something completely unique to a single person's reality. I am not saying that religion is right or wrong or that one religion or no religion is better/worse/etc... than another. I'm saying that it's a very personal concept that each individual must contemplate and assign a meaning/value in regards to their own reality. If you have the ability to define and decide your own truth - to construct your own personal version of reality - what happens when what you accept clashes with the larger consensual version of reality? When this happens you are faced with a "Cognitive Dissonance" - a mental/emotional (psychological) state where the reality you've subscribed to (personally) is challenged by the reality that everyone around you subscribes to - and the two must be reconciled to avoid a break with reality - which can best be described as a compromised state of thought and emotion. An individual faced with a cognitive dissonance will be forced to abandon their personal reality in favor of the consensual reality or they can reject the consensual reality in favor of their personal reality. A perfect example is the place in Western Society where children learn the truth about "Santa Claus" and "The Easter Bunny" etc... Until the point in which they are faced with irrefutable evidence that these beings do not exist, they are typically accepted as a normal aspect of a child's personal reality. Most children in the USA accept and believe that these beings exist and are a natural part of the world around them. At some point in their childhood development they will be challenged with information that these beings are not real and this will cause a cognitive dissonance in their reality. This evidence will be contrary to everything they've accepted to that point in their life. Depending on the individual this revelation can be experienced with a wide range of emotional/mental duress. When the child finally accepts that these beings are not real and are part of a centuries-old social mythology they resolve their cognitive dissonance and assimilate this new data from the consensus reality into their personal reality. In some individuals this move to accept new data is too emotionally or mentally traumatic and they reject the consensus reality - choosing to resolve their cognitive dissonance by favoring their personal reality. This usually results in an increasing departure from accepting consensus data and in many cases leads to a break with the consensus reality completely. This causes great difficulties for the individual for they often lose the ability to interact with individuals who are still connected to the consensus.
From 1989 until 1993 I worked at two different psychiatric hospitals in Savannah, Georgia (Charter Hospital of Savannah and Georgia Regional Hospital). One was a private facility and the other was a State-run facility. It was in these two hospitals, working 8, sometimes 16 hours a day with emotionally disturbed, mentally-ill patients that I learned to value the great differences in reality that can be experienced between two individuals. What is REAL? What is TRUTH? I can tell you that in my experience, reality and truth are whatever the individual believes them to be. Small differences between two people's individual realities have little consequences in regards to their being able to communicate and understand one-another. What happens when an individual's brain, the physical organ in their skull, is malfunctioning and causing dramatic changes to their perception of reality? It's heartbreaking and terrifying to witness. When a person's heart or liver or kidneys, etc... malfunctions - there are medications and surgical procedures that can be used to correct whatever illness/condition (and the resulting symptoms) they are experiencing. In almost every case where a body system not involving the central nervous system is involved the malfunctioning organ(s) will not alter the individual's perception of consensus reality. But what about when it is an individual's brain that is malfunctioning? What happens when the very organ - the ONLY organ that is used to interpret external sensory information stops working correctly?
When an individual is experiencing auditory or visual hallucinations - when they are seeing spiders crawling on their bodies or they are feeling bees sting them - these experiences are in those moments a real and true part of their individual reality. It would be easy for anyone who is not experiencing hallucinations to dismiss or disregard the distress and anguish the hallucinating individual is experiencing. To me that is simply one of the most cruel and arrogant things a person in that situation could choose to do. I've seen it far too many times... a person deep in the throws of neural receptor-based hallucinations crying in physical pain, terrified and confused. In those moments, trapped inside of their own malfunctioning minds - those people were experiencing what I can only imagine was a living nightmare that they could not wake up from. Their tears were real. Their pain was real. And I am proud to say it was my job to help them. To care for them. To do everything in my power to sooth and comfort them.
So why have I started a collection entitled "MISC MUSINGS" where I intend on sharing my experiences and beliefs with a somewhat technical and certainly disturbing treatise on the meaning of truth as my first card? Because I want to lay the ground rules for what I believe and more importantly what I hope you will choose to take away from the cards I share. I BELIEVE THAT OUR INDIVIDUAL REALITIES ARE SACRED SO LONG AS THEY NEVER REQUIRE US TO ACT IN A WAY THAT IS DAMAGING TO OTHERS OR TO THE CONSENSUAL REALITY WE ALL MUST SHARE. Here's an example - If a person chooses to believe and subscribe to this or that religion. Great! I hope they find whatever answers or peace or purpose or whatever they are looking for. The issue is that there are countless religions, and often there are countless denominations within a religion. Who is right? Who is wrong? I say they are all right. They are all wrong. Belief in a higher power is an individual/phenomenological experience. Religion is not consensual. Aspects of religious belief shared among individuals can be part of their consensual reality. But that is the reality of a few. Not reality on a larger scale. Therefore it is wrong to attempt to create a cognitive dissonance in the greater consensual reality that is born from an person's individual reality. Why? Because that's MY reality. That's what I believe. That's what makes sense in my version of reality. Of course it doesn't matter what I believe - it's not fair for me to say that people with different religious views or whatever - differences from me - can't try to gain wider acceptance of their reality while I'm trying to force my version of reality on them. It's a double standard. And I do not like double standards. I think it's perfectly OK to test our consensual reality. But if the test fails and the consensual reality holds true, leave it alone. Move on. Adjust your personal reality or accept the cognitive dissonance. That's where I believe we have to make a major leap in logic and in our standards of accepted behavior if we are going to survive another 1000 years as a species. Our individual realities are central to our very sense of unique individuality. That is why a person's right to mold their personal reality around their individual beliefs is sacred. The question becomes is one person's individual reality more valuable or more important than another individual's? To this I say "NO IT IS NOT". How can something that exists outside the consensus be valuated? It is not possible. We have to learn to accept that as individuals we have the right to believe whatever we want so long as we do not choose to force our beliefs on another in a way that places higher value on our own beliefs (devaluing their beliefs at the same time). WHAT I PROMISE YOU IF YOU DECIDE TO FOLLOW THIS COLLECTION IS THAT I WILL TREAT YOUR VIEWS AND YOUR INDIVIDUAL REALITY WITH RESPECT. I will test and prod and poke our consensual reality - but never in an attempt to corrupt or break it. In truth <- no pun intended - I seek to test your individual realities in such a way that I sincerely hope we can learn from one another and grow in a positive and healthy manner.
I want you to think about this - is it not the very nature of our perception of the world around us - of others and of society - and of our place in the world and in society - that we are always assimilating new information and thus expanding our personal reality? Just as the child who learns that Santa Claus is just a fairy-tell - a story that their parents tell them as part of the "magic" of childhood - their reality shifts and expands with the new knowledge that Santa Claus is not real. Now think about how as that child grows into an adult they add even more understanding of how the Santa Claus myth has become a global economic force worth billions of dollars to retailers and businesses - and to the governments that gain tax revenue from sales of Holiday gifts. Their reality has expanded even more as they grow up to become the manager of a department store or retailer who depends on Holiday sales to stay solvent financially. Then think again how their reality expands when they become parents themselves and they find themselves perpetuating the myth - experiencing the magic and unbridled joy their children experience on Christmas morning. Our individual realities are constantly expanding and evolving. As is our consensual reality. What I plan on sharing is how my background in psychology and the treatment of the mentally-ill helped form the basis of my personal belief system. How through the life choices I've made and the resulting chain reaction of events my actions have created in my life and in the life of those around me (both good and bad) has resulted in the development of my reality and belief system. Lastly, I want to state that it is not enough for me to place the lessons l have learned (and the questions the knowledge I've yet to learn creates) out there without the goal of it being something that is useful to someone else in their own journey. Do I think I have the answers? ANY answers? In regards to your life and your experiences I really have no idea. I have discovered many of the answers I have sought in my own journey. But answers have a funny way of breeding more questions and the older I get the more questions I discover I hadn't even thought to ask before now. I will share this information with you... openly... gladly. And perhaps it may be of some use to you. That's the wonderful thing about all of this. Until we go there we will never know.
"Finding the Path to Self-Awareness - Understanding the Power of Choice" - Β© 2015 - Jon Patrick Hyde - All Rights Reserved.
Ps- Thank you so much for sharing ^_^
This is so fascinating! I really like your thoughts on responsibility- you're right! It's important for us to own out choices, even our bad ones. Otherwise we never learn. I feel like our definitions of reality are very similar. It's taken me a long time to trust other people's interpretations of the world. We all have different experiences, but when I was younger (and a tad more self-centered) I couldn't imagine that anyone else's experiences could cause them to draw different conclusions about the world than I had. I've had a lot of growing to do since then.
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