Reality

The classical ideal of objectivity – the idea that the world has a definite state of existence independent of our observing it, has been effectively ravaged by quantum physics. “The actual state of existence depends in part on how we observe it and what we choose to see. Objective reality must be replaced by observer created reality.” [Pagels - 1982] The conceptual framework of observer created reality is carried into the macroworld through the functioning of the mind.

What we will examine is how the mental structure of each person, developed over years of interactive involvements with the environment, particularly the significant people in that environment, determines to a large extent not only what the individual thinks, but what s/he perceives and experiences, and to a large extent how s/he reacts [specific reactions, however, may require a repertoire of skills, which is a second level of intervention to be discussed later].

The observer, in the way s/he chooses to observe, encode, retain and react to the perceptions of life around her, defines that reality in a manner which is coherent only to her, based upon her interpretation and understanding of the perceptions and understanding of those around her. “The problem is that when we say a person seeks true information we really mean that the person seeks information that [s/he] considers true. …subjective truth is largely a matter of coherence; statements that complement (rather than contradict) what one already believes are likely to be seen as true.” [Gilbert - 1993]

Ludwig [1988] put it another way:

The mind is much less on organ of rationality than of rationalization. Because the individual has to live with himself, his mind tries to legitimize his intentions and behaviors so that he need not feel guilty, so that he can convince himself that his is making the right choice.

Meichenbaum and Fong [1993] suggest that people create explanatory stories with which to explain the world and their participation in it. “These schemas may take the form of 1) personal metaphors [e.g., "I have always built a wall around myself"], 2) historical accounts where we cast ourselves as hero, victim, or bystander, or 3) implicit beliefs and adapted ideologies. The schematic processes influence and help to determine the realities we construct, the mind control efforts we engage in, the blueprints for how we generate narratives.”

This is a theory of correlation of experience. We cannot assume objective reality apart from our own experience as access to the physical world is through experience. The common denominator of all experience is the “I” that does the experiencing. In short, what we are experiencing is not external reality, but our interaction with it. This interaction is mediated by the personal interpretation of experiences through analytical work which may or may not be rigorous. Since our behaviors are contingent upon our beliefs, we respond according to our understanding, not necessarily the stimuli; and our response is equally analyzed and interpreted. We impact and change our environment, even as our environment molds us.

It follows therefore, that behaviors such as aggression or caring are not properties or characteristics of the individual; but rather properties of the individual’s interaction with the environment. Al Capone, after all, was said to be very caring for his mother. All of us have basic characteristics regarding the decision to fight or flee, but which of these responses are evoked is a product of interactional relationships and the interpretation of events and experiences. The fight/flee characteristics are mutually exclusive, or complimentary aspects of the individual. One of them always excludes the other because people cannot both fight and flee at the same time. Although the conversion from one to the other can seemingly be instantaneous and blends of these characteristics emanate as strange mixtures of behavior such as the oxymoron passive aggressive implies.

We have discussed previously the impact of self-fulfilling prophecy as a phenomenon concerning the manner in which one’s belief concerning the occurrence of some future even makes one behave in a manner that increases the likelihood that the expected event will occur. The narrative “stories” that we tell about ourselves are equally as “self-fulfilling, as the high expectation placed upon us by others. In fact, it is the dichotomy between these expectations that allows for change. The imposed reality of outside expectation has major impact in the classroom. Rosenthal & Jacobson [1968], after testing children from kindergarten through fifth grade, designated at random 20 percent of each teacher’s new pupils as “late bloomers”. Since the designation was random there was no way that these children differed from the remaining 80 percent, except in the achievement expectation planted in the teacher’s mind. While they did not tell the teachers how to treat the students in any way, the results confirmed the expectancy hypothesis as the “late bloomers” on retest gained four points more in IQ than had their control classmates. “Raising teachers’ expectations regarding pupil performance had initiated an Self Fulfilling Prophecy process in which teachers unwittingly acted different toward different pupils and thereby fulfilled their prophecies.” In imposing this reality “…one person, inspired by a vision, desire, prophecy, or expectation, persists in his relationship with another person, ultimately transforming that person in accord with the vision.” [Eden - 1990]

“Recall that prophecies do not fulfill themselves. It is the prophet who, acting under the influence of his own prophecy, behaves in a manner that molds someone else’s behavior to conform with the prophet’s expectations” Rosenthal summarized these activities into four mediating behaviors:

Socioemotional climate, which is defined a teacher behaviors that are nonverbal, and mostly subconscious, that convey positive or negative feelings towards pupils.

Feedback, an indispensable ingredient to any learning process. Teachers give more feedback and more varied feedback to pupils of whom they expect more.

Input, in the form of teaching more material and harder material, is provided more tho those expected to do well. This mediating factor may serve to challenge these pupils and spur them on to greater achievement. It may also be a means of communicating high expectations to pupils [reinforcing a confidence in their ability to achieve].

Output is defined a producing a learning result as in answering questions in class. Teachers give pupils opportunities for producing output by assigning them challenging projects or by calling upon them to do something extra, beyond the minimal requirements.

This combination of behaviors make teachers more effective instructors for those they expect to do well. [Eden - 1990] This interpersonal expectancy effect takes place within the professional community of teachers, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and others in the helping professions. When we understand this effect and combine it with the pathology approaches utilized in human service we begin to gain awareness as to how these approaches create helpless, atypical people.

Human service workers have created a reality based on a belief system which expects people with problems in living to be violent, resistive and unable to improve their functioning and quality of life. This suggests, that even if it is not true, it would help to adopt new beliefs and technologies which are more positive in their outlook. As long as the helper believed them to be true, they would behave in a manner of positive expectation.

Cognitive-Behavior-Moving Circles

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