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The counter-productive effects of trying to ‘create your own reality’ (and what to do instead)!

This is going to be an unpopular thing to say:

You do NOT ‘create your own reality,’ simply by your thinking.

This pop culture idea implies that if I don’t like my reality, I can simply think my way out of it by thinking ‘better’ thoughts.

The problem with this pseudo-teaching is that it causes us to blame ourselves if our reality is not to our liking.

It makes us as individuals entirely responsible for our experience of life.

This ignores systems of oppression, privilege and the myriad ways we are interconnected.

Try telling this to someone who wasn't born with privilege, and you can see how ridiculous and shaming it is.

It’s not up to you, alone, as an individual.

And it’s also harmful to put yourself in a self-critical cage where you police your thoughts into only being the ‘right ones’.

This is simply not possible, and leads to a downward spiral of self-flagellation and isolation.

I crossed over into spirituality from science, and I don’t readily accept these truisms that float about.

In practice, this idea is just another way to make you feel bad about yourself and reinforce the toxic hyper-individuality of patriarchy.

It’s a good way to feel ‘not good enough’ for your entire life.

It results in pushing away the truth of your experience - anything uncomfortable or dark - anything that might pollute the extreme positivity needed for ‘creating your reality.’

It can cause you to put a lot of unnecessary stress and pressure on yourself.

The truth is, we cannot control what happens in our life or our immediate emotional responses to it.

Now let’s be clear: I’m not advocating the other extreme: victim mentality - where you have no power, agency, or responsibility for your life and everything has been done ‘to’ you.

Both of these extremes ignore our interdependence and life history. We are embedded in a larger web of causes and effects.

However, like with many pop culture truisms, there’s a grain of truth here:

It does help to notice your habitual patterns of thinking and the stories you tell yourself.

You can then notice that you have the power to tell a different story.

You can also choose where you put your focus - for example, on your failings, or on where you’re already doing well.

You can choose to stand up to your inner critic and treat yourself with kindness.

You can create conscious intentions, find holistic sources of pleasure + inspiration, and find the community resources to pull yourself out of situations that are too overwhelming to handle on your own.

These practices are very powerful for creating a different reality.

And they have nothing to do with ‘thinking the right thoughts.’

I’ve actually made happen a number of important achievements in my life while being extremely pessimistic and doubtful - including my PhD in chemistry.

No amount of ‘creating my own reality’ through thinking the right thoughts was going to make my experiments in lab come out differently.

Additionally, believing that what your rational mind thinks is best is actually best for your life is a fallacy - as we know well, some of the most important discoveries in science were made through serendipity.

And some of our most impactful and ultimately empowering moments in life come when things don’t go our way.

The power in relating to life lies not in controlling your reality through your mind, but in being able to dance between direction and surrender, to live with awareness and intention, and to relate your moment-to-moment experience with acceptance and grace.

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