Wishing or Denying or Ignoring

Mark Pottenger


There was an interesting point in a Great Course I listened to recently. The known negativity bias of the brain can be viewed as a survival trait developed by our ancestors scanning for threats for thousands of generations. Happiness or pleasure can also be explained as part of an evolved system for recognizing beneficial things, countering assertions of people who place low value on happiness or pleasure.

Decades ago, Maslow described a hierarchy of needs, pointing out that survival needs must be handled before one is able to devote attention to comfort/pleasure needs or to self-actualization.

How do you tell the difference between interior mental phenomena for dealing with undesirable aspects of reality (especially difficult to change ones) at different levels of reality?

-1 denial of reality (negative side of level 1)

1 wish that reality was different

1 demand that reality change

2 affirmation that reality is different

2 visualization of a new reality

2 minimize attention on problems

3 Universal Mind actualization of a new reality

An “aspect of reality” can refer to anything from hearing too much from a frequently negative individual to local weather disasters to wildfires to corrupt people in power to systematic racism to global climate change or the global pandemic. Saying an aspect of reality is undesirable is, of course, based on accepted beliefs and values, but these examples are all aspects of reality that I believe are bad for people or societies. They all increase stress in ways which generally decrease health and reduce mental resources for clear thinking.

Level 1 in general has very little free will, being locked in to trained beliefs, but a particularly negative form of level 1 is to be locked in to false beliefs.

A negative level 1 denial of reality decreases odds for surviving or prospering. This level fails or (unconsciously) refuses to recognize some aspect of reality. There is no conscious intent or choice. The seriousness of the aspect of reality determines the seriousness of the consequences of denial. When the aspect of reality is physical, like gravity, the consequences (such as a fall) come quickly. When the aspect of reality is social (or human constructed), consequences can take longer to manifest.

A level 1 wish that reality was different has no impact on the outside world, and is slightly detrimental to the individual wisher because it consumes mental resources. The wisher recognizes the reality of the unwanted aspect, makes no decisions and takes no actions based on assuming that the wished change to reality is true, but also takes no actions to try to make the wished change to reality true. If the wish for a difference is very strong, it can consume a lot of a person’s limited conscious resources, making the person less likely to make well-informed decisions in their daily life. If the aspect of reality is strongly negative, paying attention to it (like scratching a bite/sting) is likely to increase stress, so sometimes staying informed is actually worse than ignoring something.

A level 1 demand that reality change has moved out of the stasis of wishing to actually acting in the world. Protests and demonstrations about undesirable aspects of reality are first reality push-backs against the culture/world, which unfortunately rarely succeed in changing the culture. Political activism is another possible form of action.

A level 2 affirmation that reality is different is a lot like a level 1 wish, except that the mental energy is tied up in trying to affirm something one knows isn’t true. The intent is positive, but I’ve never been able to see this kind of affirmation as productive, since my own mind has such a strong reality bias that trying to do affirmations just reinforces the awareness/knowledge of the actual reality. Just like a level 1 wish, this can unproductively consume a person’s limited conscious resources and increase stress/frustration.

A level 2 visualization of a new reality may sound a lot like an affirmation that reality is different, but the focus differs. Instead of trying to affirm a known falsehood, the individual visualizes the known aspect of reality being replaced by a new reality. The individual may take actions in the world (social/political actions for social/political problems, ecological conscientiousness for ecological problems, etc.) to help change an unwanted aspect of reality toward a wanted aspect of reality.

A level 2 deliberate ignoring of a negative aspect of reality can be a positive action to maintain mental health. If you know about a negative and know that you as an individual can’t do anything to fix it, you can choose to give it as little mental attention as possible. Monasteries and other cloistered environments, or personal creations of equivalent mental spaces, can actually improve mental and physical health by reducing exposure to negative aspects of reality and the stress they cause.

A level 3 Universal Mind actualization of a new reality goes beyond all the earlier choices of an individual mind. This is like individual visualization, but by a mind that is experiencing reality as a facet of Universal Mind, and with total focus on actualizing/experiencing a new aspect of reality. No mental energy goes to reinforcing the existing aspect of reality. As always, I find it very hard to make the object-oriented natural language we use through level 2 convey the nature of level 3 experiences.

Back to the opening question: How do you tell the difference between a level -1 denial, a level 2 affirmation, and a level 3 actualization? In all three, the mental experience is an attempt to experience a version of an aspect of reality that isn’t the current version of that aspect of reality. Level -1 fails or refuses to recognize the current reality, level 2 tries to affirm a different reality while usually just reinforcing the current reality, while level 3 practices a different reality and refuses to give any mental focus to the current reality. Level -1 may actually not understand current reality, while the other levels understand current reality but try in different ways to practice a different reality. The key to telling the levels apart is to look at what thoughts came before the thoughts/behaviors in question and what intent (if any) motivates the thoughts. If there was no conscious reasoning, just reacting to outside stimuli, we are looking at level 1 (including -1). If there is prior recognition of the current reality and conscious reasoning and intention, we are looking at level 2. Level 3 also starts with prior recognition of the current reality, and requires experience of or belief in Universal Mind, but the motivating impulse can come from individual conscious reasoning or can come from Universal Mind without individual conscious reasoning.

Copyright © 2020 Mark Pottenger

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