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Marc often jokes that he's never been attacked by an animal that wasn't a saber-toothed-whatever (and that includes a saber-toothed mouse). Another joke is that he's never had gun pointed at him. It was always the barrel of a cannon that he was looking down.

Those quips, as nonsensical as they may appear to your rational mind, convey a very important concept. They are, in fact, accurate summations of perceptual distortions that occur under adrenalized circumstances. For example: While there is no such thing as a saber-toothed mouse when one is bursting out of a ladle full of feed and heading towards your face, that is what it looks like. In the same vein, you rationally know there is no possibility of someone holding a battleship sized cannon. But you're convinced that's what he's pointing at you -- even if it just a .22 caliber.

Under the influence of adrenalin and emotion hat IS your reality at the time.

There was a demonstration that was not uncommon in psychology classes in the 70's and 80's. While discussing the subjectiveness of "reality,"  perception and how complicated they can be. An unexpected and outrageous event would be staged in the classroom. After order had been restored, the students would be asked to report on "what had just happened." It was not uncommon to get forty different versions; versions that seldom were anywhere close to what had actually occurred.

This tendency towards perceptual differences, subjective interpretation/ misinterpretation and countless other factors is the study of entire fields in psychology. Rather than inflict you with all the terms and explanation that psychology uses, we will just use the terms that we use to explain the difference.

  • Actuality is what happened. It is the nuts and bolts, these are the facts, these are the events. Putting it in simple terms this is what shows up on the video tape.
  • Reality is your interpretations, perceptions, assumptions, cultural indoctrination, motivations and countless other subjective elements that make up what you perceive as what happened. It is what you think occurred. "Reality" basically means all influences and interpretations that don't show up on the tape, but determine what we think is going on. While they may not have tangible form, they are critical on how we view and interact with the world. Reality can also be viewed as: This is "why" what happened on the tape occurred.

Reality and actuality are very much intertwined, which is why most people don't recognize that there is a difference. Actuality is what it is. It is the addition of subjective and conscious factors that creates Reality. In short, our reality is how we understand and organize the complexities of existence. We make a "model" of life and operate along those guidelines. In addition, this model serves both as a means to process incoming information, but also as a filter. It not only determines what we perceive of actuality, but what it means.

Knowing the difference between reality and actuality, it is not difficult to understand why the same event can be viewed in countless different ways. And each carries radically different interpretations. Even though the actuality might be pretty cut and dried, the reality is as much influenced by what people think is going on.

And that is something people aren't going to agree on.

Although it isn't the only influence, the actuality we live in plays a large part in determining our reality. This is one of many reasons why people's realities can be so radically different. To start with our daily "actualities" can be wildly different. The environment, culture and different social conditions that humans live in all radically effect people's "reality" and how they operate within their circumstances. This is why a person living in a large city in a Western nation will have a totally different "reality" than a nomadic African bushman.

Even within the same nation/culture, however, different people emphasize different aspects, assign different values and believe different things; they do this to organize/cope with/explain actuality. Therefore a poor, ethnic, inner-city, drug-addicted gang member, a WASP member of an affluent trust-fund clan and a lower-middle class Southern fundamentalist Baptist will all have very different actualities (circumstances they must operate within) as well as different realities (world views, opinions and beliefs). How well their reality fits with the actuality they find themselves in determines how well they will do in those circumstances.

You can continue to take this idea down to smaller and smaller examples to show how even people in the same situation can have different realities. The example we use is a husband and wife. Even though there are many congruent points in their shared reality and actuality, there are still important differences.

By now you should realize a person's "reality" is largely subjective. And yet, just because it is subjective, doesn't mean it isn't utterly real to the person. A paranoid schizophrenic can be locked into a "reality" where every sense/neurological interpretation/mental construct is telling him that the demons chasing him are really there. This is why it is critical to realize how often people are not reacting to actuality, but instead reacting to their reality. Knowing this you can begin to understand how many problems occur with people taking things the wrong way.

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