It is not uncommon to state that there is one, true reality - an objective realm governed by physical and natural laws which can be observed and measured by science. Although it is a rather straight forward proposition with which each person can easily agree, not every person is attuned to this reality.
The concepts and ideologies created by the social world, including fantasies, abstract ideas, social norms, beliefs and alike, make such synchronisation to the ‘real reality’ rather more complex than it appears at first. Social constructionist perspective in psychology and sociology proposes that language enables us not only to communicate, but also to develop a shared meaning: opinions, assumptions, ethics and morality. Our language thus, creates a certain impression or a description of what happens to and around us. Therefore, it is clear that language and all its products are a description of the reality developed within specific culture, but not the reality itself.
What’s your reality tunnel?
Another analogy of describing our perception is that of a reality tunnel. This idea, explored by philosophers such as Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson, suggests that each of us chooses the way of perceiving the world which is based on how we decide to interpret the world. For instance, one person might choose to state that certain political viewpoint is more true than the other, or it is right to live in one way and not the other. The reality tunnel of such person will encompass all ideas and interpretations of what’s going on and what should be happening accordingly to their ideologies.
In general, we can clearly see various differences in reality tunnels between people involved with different ideologies, including religion, politics and social norms, that dominate in the community they are currently living in. Some might even say that personality will also determine the way in which a person perceives the reality so that a person with dominant intuitive function will be better at perceiving the whole, whereas the dominant sensing function will be manifested as focusing on immediate material and social affairs. Or, accordingly to Big Five personality, a neurotic will be more likely to retreat into their fantasies about the reality whereas extravert will be more likely to focus on the outside world. It is worth saying though, that neither of the approaches to the reality as reflected by the personality type is more ‘true’ or ‘right’, as such differences are only a manifestation of preferences towards approaching the reality.
The reality tunnel is also influenced by the experiences that occurred as early as in infancy and childhood. When a small child is punished for doing certain things - e.g. being told to be quiet when talking too much, or being shouted at when running around the house too often - that already forms the reality tunnel such little person will have later in life.
The other version of this concept which can be found in psychology is termed constructivism. Basically, constructivism is the idea that we create our knowledge about the reality by the use of socially available tools such as technology and art, discourses in the form of language, media and social trends.
Constructing a reality bubble
When we do include everything that is not based on a direct observation of reality and experience of it, our perception becomes clouded with opinions, assumptions and various beliefs. By this process, we create our own reality bubble. We might be either entirely separated from other people, or we can share such bubbles with other individuals.
In such a case, our experience and understanding of the reality is solely based on keeping in our field of vision everything that suits our pre-conceived knowledge and beliefs. The whole belief system keeps the bubble together, and everything that is conflicting to our current knowledge is perceived as a threat that should be eliminated - that is to say, dismissed by ridiculing it, criticising it, ignoring it and such. Unfortunately, this very process only strengthens the bubble and makes our experience of the reality limited to only what does occur in this bubble.
But why people lock themselves in such bubbles?
Every encounter with the knowledge that is familiar to us - as it's already present in our memory that is shaped by the whole belief system, brings us comfort and reassurance that we are ‘right’ or ‘correct’. In contrast, every encounter with something unfamiliar or something that contradicts our pre-existing knowledge is perceived as a threat to our current and comfortable position. Such encounter creates a discomfort because it forces us to question ourselves, our ‘correctness’ and ability to judge accurately. When such situation occurs, we usually have a choice of either dismissing the contradictory information or to update our database, aka knowledge and belief system, which can then encompass an updated version of a previously stored information.
Although it does sound as a rather straight forward process, one more important thing should be mentioned. If we are not paying attention as to whether we are locked in such bubble, or whether simply there are ways of bringing our existence closer to the objective reality, the chances are that we will remain in our reality bubble. We surely might encounter opportunities for stretching our perception and making our existence free from such bubbles, however, being at the mercy of the chance is not always the best option. We could wait for the whole eternity to encounter such opportunity.