top of page

The Expansion of Reality and the Importance of Acknowledging Differing Experiences

Updated: May 1

woman in green top with EEG electrodes taped to her head

Reality and facts. What are they exactly? Why do so many people experience them so differently? Has our definition expanded over time? If so, how do so many people who find comfort and solace in unchanging definitions, adapt? How does 'perspective' fit in? And above all, how are we expected to live and function together as a species if we don't exist and function in the same reality? These are all questions I don't have precise answers for. But I'll share a model that works for me, that supports the life I want to live, and allows for others who experience things differently, to co-exist alongside me.

The inspiration for this post came from a topic in an interesting online group that I'm part of: what defines 'reality' and 'facts'? A curious fellow participant asked such thoughtful questions about how I view this complex topic, that I was inspired to write it out in more detail. So although a more accurate title might read, "The Expansion of our Understanding of Reality and....", a sorter title seemed to suffice. So here it is. As with everything I share, if some of it resonates, great. If it doesn't, that's okay too. I appreciate your time and consideration.

The Basics

I view the word ‘reality’ as generally describing an environment we exist, live or function in. And that reality environment is supported by what we call 'facts'. I view ‘facts’ as the tangible evidence that supports or describes a reality environment. So one term (reality) is a general 'umbrella' description of a working /living ‘space’, so to speak, and the other term (facts) is a mechanism for describing, measuring or supporting it. 

We used to only talk about our physical, external version of reality as its primary definition. Now the definition of reality has expanded, and we hear and read of many other reality environments in addition to the more familiar external-physical reality. The most prominent 'new' reality (or environment) that we are learning more about, is our internal mental-emotional reality. This internal reality along with our external-physical reality are the two environments that humans primarily exist in, or spend the most time going between. So when we hear someone say, "get real!", it more often is trying to relay, "get externally, physically real where the rest of us spend most of our time!" 

Then, we also hear of people talking about spiritual or energetic reality, altered reality, parallel reality and virtual reality - each of which probably have evidence or 'facts' of their own to support it.

man with backpack standing out in nature looking at mountains

Our external, physical reality

This is the reality more frequently talked about because it’s one all humans share and the one most of us work and live in. This is also referred to as ‘grounded’ reality. The ‘facts’ that support this external-physical reality environment are what we take in through our human senses. 

image of a man's head with clouds coming off the back, depicting internal perspective

Perspective and our internal mental-emotional reality

Our internal reality is influenced by factors like our past, learned associations, mental illness or imagination. What we take in through our senses is then interpreted - and sometimes quite differently based on individual experience or education. This forms Perspective, or the way we view and our external-physical reality environment.

Many interpretations of what we take in through our senses are shared, while others may be more unique or nuanced to the individual. The ‘facts’ that support our internal reality-environment are our physiological response to it: heart rate, emotional activation, neural activity etc.. So when someone’s experiences an internal physiological response based on their perception of our external-physical reality, those physiological responses that are happening in their bodies are the ‘facts’ that support it, even if we can’t see it. The person is experiencing those 'facts' inside them. It is very real. And more often these days, we can measure more and more of those internal responses. That’s why someone's internal reality experience is valid. The person is experiencing that reality in a very physical (physiological) and ‘real’ way, no matter what's contributing to it. In other words, we may not believe in ghosts ourselves. But if someone says they saw a ghost, and have a physiological response that accompanied that experience, it's a very valid, and internally real experience for that person. Remember,

...we don't have to understand it or share a belief in something, in order to acknowledge someone else's experience of it.

I mean sure, it makes it a lot easier if we do share the experience and belief. But sharing an experience or belief is not required for it to be valid for that person. And acknowledging someone else's internal experience as being valid , empathizing with how conflicting it can sometimes be when an internal experience doesn’t match their external reality, and mutually cross-checking each other through curiosity and self-awareness is the stuff of connected relationships. 

woman wearing a virtual reality device

Virtual reality and other reality environments

Admittedly, although I've dabbled in a few other reality-environments out of curiosity, these are not areas I have vast knowledge or personal experience in. Yet I imagine there is an equivalent ‘fact’ or descriptor that supports the virtual reality environment: like a program code, or a virtual result in the game perhaps? And if the player gets so immersed in the virtual reality that it elicits a neuro-physiological or emotional response, well that’s why the experience is so ‘real’. So in those cases, is our physiological response to the virtual visual-sensory input acting as a supporting 'fact'? A good question to contemplate.

Personally, I have learned to thoroughly enjoy a fulfilling life going between my external physical reality and internal mental-emotional reality, cross-checking frequently to remain aware of which is which, and how it interplays with others in my life. I enjoy existing and living within these two realities because it’s the reality that the people I feel a sense of belonging with are based in. And these are the two reality environments where I feel the most love and connection. So both staying present in my external physical reality as often as I can, while connecting through shared internal emotional experiences as they come up, help me do this. 

men talking and listening to each other

How do we help people stay ‘grounded’ in the physical reality we share, while allowing for curious exploration of other realities? 

Although I have found peaceful, enjoyable relationships through my external-physical reality, I can see how humans who don’t feel a sense of belonging, love or connection in this external physical world, might seek it out in another reality environment. If we spend too much time in altered, internal or virtual realities, it can come at the loss of connection in this amazing, shared, physical reality.

That's really what I sense is scary for many people, the potential loss of connection (separateness) that comes when we fully immerse ourselves in realities we don't have in common.

And if we're not grounded, aware and frequently examining which reality we're experiencing at any given time, there's may also be a fear that we, ourselves, could get pulled away from the reality environment we've based our life around. Our need for connection is powerful. It can be useful, and it can pull us off course if we're not solid in our understanding of ourselves and what we value.

Which is  why I encourage empathy and curiosity in relationships. 

If someone feels safe (calm) enough to share their internal reality experience with me (even if I don’t understand it or subscribe to it), then if they ever ask, I may be able to help them self-assess how their internal experience relates to their external world. I may be able to show them how I’ve gotten my internal and external realities to be more congruent, and perhaps this receptivity will invite them to spend more time in our shared physical reality for the short time we have in it. 

I understand that all that I’ve just described may be overly simplistic, functional and may not resonate with everyone who reads this. That’s okay. I've grown very comfortable with people seeing things differently, as long as it doesn't impact or harm someone else's differing experience. This is a complex topic and the model I describe here is simply one that works for me to support the life I want to live. 

But it’s also a great topic to remain curious about as our definitions expand. What’s your understanding of the terms 'reality' and 'facts'? Are they much different? How does the model you use benefit you


The Human Infusion Project is a grassroots, philanthropic personal development platform that draws from the combined fields of modern brain science, applied psychology and spiritual philosophy. Our mission aims to augment and supplement the work of professional practitioners in simplified, practical and affordable ways. 100% of all online class profit funds the Wellness Assistance Grant. If financial constraints limit your participation, please contact me and we'll work something out.

13 views0 comments


bottom of page