You know that gut feeling when you really, really feel something is true?
Well, the more strongly you feel it to be true …the more likely that it isn’t.
And if you can separate the feeling from your judgment of what’s right, you can eliminate most of your emotional suffering.
Psychic Equivalence: a Problem of Attention
Psychic equivalence is a psychology term for what happens when information doesn’t enter your awareness because it’s filtered out.
You may have heard of perceptual blindness (also called “inattentional blindness,” or “change blindness”), which has a similar result to psychic equivalence …but a very different cause.
Perceptual blindness is when you fail to notice something taking place because it simply didn’t occur to you that this could happen. Examples include focusing on one mental task and failing to notice something else happening, blind people being unable to learn to see things after their eyes have been fixed, or the inability for people of some Eastern language cultures to hear a difference between the English “L” sound and “R” sound.
Perceptual blindness is a mechanism that causes certain information not to be picked up by your brain, because your brain is otherwise occupied or because your brain doesn’t have a category for that kind of information, so your brain doesn’t know what to do with it.
Both perceptual blindness and psychic equivalence result in you not being aware of what’s really going on. But the reasons for perceptual blindness and psychic equivalence are very different: one, a product of the way your brain is set up …the other a result of the way your mind works.
In psychic equivalence, your brain rejects information, because you prefer to believe something else. So, while perceptual blindness is an inability to pay attention, psychic equivalence is an unwillingness to pay attention.
Because the information coming in from your senses is different from the way you want it to be.
The good news is that you can do something about both of these conditions.
Human beings are born with serious attentional inabilities: newborn infants are functionally deaf, blind and insensate, and our brains have to learn how to hear, see, and feel based on large amounts of organized patterns of information. So we start life with perceptual blindness.
As we develop, we create or absorb stories to explain the meaning of the sensory information that our brains receive. Over time, you develop a mental structure which provides a context for sensory information so that the information is useful to you.
By the time your senses reach developmental maturity – around age 6 or 7 – you have also developed a mental structure to organize the information. After this point, more than 90% of what you perceive to be happening is interpreted based on your previous experiences.
Formation of your mental structures occurs in lockstep with formation of your brain itself. As a result, for every nerve that comes from your eyeballs to the seeing part of your brain (visual cortex), there are about ten nerves coming to the seeing part of your brain from your imagination (prefrontal cortex)!
In other words, for every actual image that you see, you are imagining 90% of it.
This is a totally natural and necessary brain function which allows you to focus your attention consciously on the task at hand (such as negotiating your car on a slippery road), while allowing your unconscious to handle all the less important stuff (such as paying attention to your car’s fuel level).
In perceptual blindness, you can’t see something either because your eyeball nerves are too busy on another task, or because your imagination nerves never learned how to see it.
But in psychic equivalence, you won’t accept information from your senses if it doesn’t match the way you want things to be. You actually reject the information coming from your eyeball nerves, because you prefer the information coming from your imagination nerves.
Perceptual blindness we can live with quite happily because you don’t miss what you never had. But psychic equivalence makes you very unhappy because, when the information coming in through your senses doesn’t match the story you’re telling yourself in your imagination, it feels gross. It creates an internal conflict.
And this is how psychic equivalence is the source of all your sadness, frustration, anxiety, and every other negative emotion.
It is also the source of all your physical health symptoms, because physical health symptoms are your body’s attempt to resolve conflicts between how things are and how you want things to be.
How Psychic Equivalence is Affecting Your Life
Intellectual psychic equivalence means failing to distinguish between things that happen in your imagination and things that happen in the real world.
When you’re frustrated and distracted with someone who “refuses to understand reality” or “thinks she’s so awesome” or “is trying to manipulate me,” you’re really frustrated and distracted because of your story about what the other person is thinking, doing, intending, and being.
You can’t actually read their mind. You’re only reading your own feelings, which are a result of your own mental processes, not a result of the world out there.
Emotional psychic equivalence means believing that something outside your own self is “making” you feel, think, or behave a certain way.
The Global Psychic Equivalence Pandemic
Psychic equivalence has become a fundamental part of our upbringing, education, and formation of worldview.
In schools, in the medical offices, from the media, from the corporations that sell us the necessities of our lives ….we are rarely given just the facts. We are almost always given the story that someone made up about those facts.
For example, schools do not teach that World War II, like all wars, was a competition for resources. Schools teach, instead, that it was a battle between the forces of fascism (evil) and democracy (good).
Here’s another example: health industry propaganda doesn’t teach us that cancer is a natural function of the body which occurs for a biological purpose. Health professionals teach, instead, that cancer is a battle between the forces of Nature (evil) and technology (good).
We are told the stories instead of the facts, even though the data do not support the stories. Because we believe that the stories are more important than the facts.
The Knowledge of Good and Evil
The notion of evil forces trying to take over the world is a very ancient imaginary idea that has persisted throughout history.
It’s the fundamental message of the creation story of several of the largest religions in the world. It’s the basis of conventional medical philosophy. It’s the motivating factor of religion, education, politics, economic policy, and our justice system.
But even though our parents, teachers, advertisers, priests, neighbours, and kings have all “known” this story …it does not make it true.
(And to believe that something must be real simply because a lot of people believe it is …psychic equivalence)
How the Crazy Spreads All Over the Place
It’s much easier to accept lies than facts. Once you’ve got even one little bit of a belief system, any conflicting information that enters your mental program will produce two kinds of discomfort:
- You’ll feel a sense of danger (because of the unknown), and
- You’ll feel the loss of your former sense of safety.
Our two-fold pain from information that challenges our belief system is called a “threshold limit.” It’s a barrier of such discomfort that makes us try to return things to normal rather than pursue a new but unfamiliar way of seeing things.
More often than not, we’ll just create new stories to replace the facts which are “making” us uncomfortable.
The original bit of psychic equivalence branches into more and more stories, until you have such a solid, complex belief system that, really, if you try to go against it, you’re in for some really significant symptoms – emotional and physical.
I call this nasty structure that is making you sick and miserable …your MindTree.
How to End the Suffering
The power of psychic equivalence is in the feelings that come up when our sensory information doesn’t match our prejudices.
It’s the sick recoil that the devout Muslim feels when she sees Miley Cyrus gyrating on stage. It’s the sadness and frustration that a well-meaning doctor feels when some hippie mother won’t vaccinate her child. It’s your helpless rage when your partner falls off the wagon and you have to go rescue him again.
Psychic equivalence makes you absolutely certain, because of the sheer power of your feelings, that something absolutely terrible is going on in the world out there. Even though your feelings are a result of your interpretation of information, not the result of what’s actually going on in the world out there.
So how can you really be sure that you are right and not just lost in psychic equivalence?
The first step is to completely disregard your feelings.
How to Tell the Difference Between Beliefs and Facts
When you’ve got a problem with the world “out there,” you’ve got two choices:
- stick to your guns that you’re right. This provides a short term energy savings, because you don’t have to put attention into self-examination.
- decide that you’re willing to have a different experience and different feelings about this situation by changing your view of it. This requires you to acknowledge – but not act on – your feelings.
Option 2, at first, takes a lot of mental energy. After all, you’re going against 90% of what your mind is telling you to do.
But the number of false stories in your head is finite. Each time you confront your own stories about a situation, you dissolve them, and that frees up your energy. You no longer have to experience that particular type of psychic equivalence.
It’s short term pain for permanent gain.
What to Accept, and What to Ignore (When You’re Trying to Overcome Psychic Equivalence)
The difference between facts and beliefs is that facts are unchanging, while beliefs change every time we need to avoid dealing with something we don’t like.
These are examples of facts:
“My husband yelled.”
“The money isn’t where I remember putting it.”
“I asked her to take out the garbage and the garbage is still in the garage.”
Feelings are also facts: fear, anger, worry, frustration, sadness.
“I feel afraid.”
“I feel worried.”
“I feel frustrated.”
Psychic equivalence occurs when you connect facts together in a cause-and-effect relationship. Now you’re not stating facts; you’re telling a story.
You have created meaning which may or may not be true:
“My husband made me afraid by yelling.”
“I’m worried because the money is gone.”
“She frustrated me by not taking out the garbage.”
And here is where the trouble lies, not just for you, but for everyone connected to you.
As every robot knows, correlation is not causation.
Unless there is 100% correlation – unless one event leads to the other every single time – then, scientifically and mathematically speaking, neither can possibly be the “cause” of the other.
It’s impossible for any event to “make” you feel anything. Your feelings are biological responses to brain processes, and brain processes are run by your unconscious mind. Your mind “causes” your feelings. Not any event outside of you.
How do I know?
Because you have to be conscious to experience a feeling. The information has to actually reach your brain in order for you to have a reaction to the information.
Perceptual blindness – information that doesn’t reach your brain – has no effect on your mood. But psychic equivalence – bad information reaching your brain – makes you miserable.
A deaf person is not frightened when your husband yells. If you expected the money to be picked up, you would not be worried when the money was later not there. When the dog or the three-year-old sees that the garbage is still in the garage, neither of them feels frustrated.
The feelings are not a result of the events; they are a result of interpretation of information received into your brain. If you walk up to 10 different people on the street, one after another, and interact with each of them the same way, they will all respond differently. Your action does not ca use their feelings. Your action, if they perceive it, provides information to their brains.
Their minds do the rest.
Why We Make Up Stories
Every one of your current beliefs is an idea you’ve made up in order to explain an overwhelming experience that you’ve had some time in your past that you couldn’t make sense of at the time …and that you still haven’t made sense of.
You were three and you dumped milk all over the kitchen floor and your mommy, who loved you very much, screamed at you.
Forming a belief about this (“Getting myself a glass of milk makes my mommy not love me”) allowed you to move through subsequent dairy-related, beverage-getting, and mess-making experiences in life without having to rethink the situation every time, while simultaneously retaining the all-important love of your mother.
But that past meaning that you gave is a program in your unconscious mind. It’s a program that says “Don’t become a milk truck driver!” or “Deny all responsibility for messes in the kitchen!” or “Do not get your own cold beverages!” whenever the appropriate situation comes up.
And the program warns you about these situations by making you feel really bad if you inch toward these dangerous activities. Even though the original meaning you made may have been incorrect.
So no matter how dumb, outdated, or untrue these stories are, if you try to act as though they are anything other than Gospel Truth, your own brain will smite you will terrible feelings.
Anxiety: Keeping You Safe Since Day One
Anxiety is a biological response that says “Red alert! Unknown situation! Proceed with caution!”
This emotion is critical to your self-protection. It brings your attention to where your attention needs to go.
But psychic equivalence seeks to cut off that anxiety. Because it feels yucky. It does this in four ways:
- Deny the facts. Get rid of anxiety by becoming unconscious of it through self-medication, compulsion, and other avoidance behaviours.
- Minimize the facts. Reduce the amount of unacceptable perceptions that come into your brain by having no relationships or activities outside your home, office, or cult group.
- Simplify the facts. Reduce your (and your kids’!) anxiety about dealing with uncertainty by reducing everything that happens in the whole world into two categories: “safe” and “dangerous.” Anything not “absolutely safe” is automatically “dangerous.” Hold this oversimplification in place by maintaining rigid single-mindedness and conviction that this view is the only proper view.
- Launch a Divine battle with the facts. That which is “safe” is “good.” That which is not good is “evil.” Join the war on homelessness, beat cancer, fight AIDS, and conquer your fear!
The Pain Pushes Until the Vision Pulls
If we’re all scared to do anything unknown, and if we’ve got all these mechanisms to prevent us from doing anything scary, and if there are ten times more stupid-story brain nerves than there are reality-brain nerves …how is it that anybody ever learns anything?
The reason that most of us do learn how to see, hear, feel, walk, talk, and go shopping is that every one of us is born wanting to get somewhere in life… but we are born totally innocent of the sin of psychic equivalence.
When we come into our physical bodies, we’ve got a desire for new information. We’re going to have experiences, we’re going to learn, and we’re going to expand our consciousness.
The process involves many risks, setbacks, and failures, but overall it’s extremely fun. The baby that’s never walked independently before is absolutely ecstatic when she finally stands on her own two feet and walks from your hands into her daddy’s waiting arms.
It’s the overwhelming, incomplete experiences that build up into stories of prejudice and bigotry …or psychic equivalence. It’s those situations where baby is told that she is a bad and stupid girl for not being able to walk, or when she finally stands on her own two feet and her deranged parents say “Well, now we’re screwed. She’s going to rip the house apart.”
These deep rifts between her joy in moving forward to expanded consciousness and her anxiety about discordant messages from the world around her that produce that first mental glitch for her.
They don’t make sense and she doesn’t know what to do. Her brain-mind biocomputer system must create a workaround to deal with this “bad code.”
So she makes up her own stories, and plants the seed of her own MindTree. It allows her to continue to follow her original path and to deal with the nonsense her parents are throwing at her.
What to do about that awful anxiety then?
With psychic equivalence, we keep externalizing it.
But the real way to stop feeling bad is, frankly, to just deal with it.
So your parents were jerks and screwed you up. So your ex stole your youth. But you’re the one who’s carrying around the stories now.
You’ve got to recognize that you have given meaning to meaningless events. It’s your belief that’s making you feel bad about events, not the events themselves.
When you’re acting from psychic equivalence, you’re mentally dysfunctional (also known as “nuts”) because you don’t actually know right from wrong …you’ve just found a way to soothe your anxiety by creating a story in which you are always right.
Winning the Battle for Your Mind
1. Accept that alternate points of view are not threats.
2. Know that your beliefs produce your feelings, not anything outside yourself.
3. Embrace uncertainty and new experiences because they are the source of joy and expansion.
4. Choose to see feelings, symptoms, and experiences not as justification for your beliefs, but just as they are. Just feel them.
When you do, you can finally move on.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.Jesus
Handling anxiety is about learning to accept reality inside and outside of you as your senses tell you it is, not as your psychic equivalence says it is. This means accepting facts, accepting feelings, and refusing to connect them to each other with story.
While perceptual blindness can only be overcome by developing whole new brain structures, psychic equivalence can be overcome at the speed of thought. All you have to do is be willing to see things differently.
Just say to yourself “Yup. That happened. Yup, I hate this.”
And then get on with your day.