With the New Year just behind us, many of us have been thinking about where we have been and what we would like to create in our future. This seems like a most appropriate time to consider the question: To what extent do we create our own reality? A popular New Age view is that our thoughts and feelings become our reality. In other words, the premise is that our experience is a direct result of what we deeply believe and so, we are entirely responsible for everything that happens to us. If we are in debt, it must be that our thinking is one of scarcity rather than abundance. If our health has failed us, it must be that at some subconscious level we have invited a lack of wellness into our lives. If we are struggling with relationships then we need to look at who we have been attracting into our lives through our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. The life we are living is a result of what we have drawn to us. Many mystics and channelers such as Jane Roberts, author of “Seth Speaks”, have expressed this view. Perhaps the most widely known contemporary communicator of this idea is Esther Hicks, American speaker and author who has presented hundreds of workshops on the Law of Attraction and appeared in the original version of the 2006 film, “The Secret”. Esther Hicks claims to be able to tap into “infinite intelligence” by channeling a group of spiritual entities called “Abraham”. Abraham’s message is unequivocal; like attracts like and we draw to us that which matches our own thinking thus fully creating our own reality.
The notion that we have full power and control over our destiny, is certainly appealing in some ways. Wouldn’t it be nice to think that we have full control over what happens to us? Yet, when life offers up painful and difficult times, it may be very discouraging to embrace such a belief. When life brings us grief, have we really created our own nightmare? Many psychologists are frustrated by this New Age thinking. There is too much evidence that such uncontrollable factors as genetics, brain biochemistry, the actions of others, life circumstances, early traumatic experiences and inborn temperament all have a significant impact on our lives. One could argue that to think that we are the sole creators of our universe is somewhat naive and ignores the evidence that many inborn factors and environmental events play a role. Other spiritual writers and thinkers while at first accepting this view, later chose to modify it somewhat. For instance, Dr. Wayne Dyer, internationally renowned author and speaker in the fields of self-development and spiritual growth and author of such books as “Manifest Your Destiny” and “Wishes Fulfilled” at first espoused the belief that we create our own destiny. However, after further deliberation and the discovery that people were blaming themselves for all kinds of misfortune, he modified his point of view to state that we control some but not all variables when it comes to our fate. In other words, he concluded that while we play a vital role in determining our future, other forces beyond our control are also in play. Thus, he coined the term “co-create” and used it instead in order to describe the process by which our future unfolds. He concluded that we co-create our own reality and in fact, made that the secondary title of his book,” The Power of Intention”, subtitling it: “Learning to Co-Create Your World Your Way”. This is more consistent with current psychological thinking and research.
While most psychologists would say that the claim that we have total control over our reality goes too far, much of the work of psychotherapy is geared towards helping people to recognize that they participate in creating their own reality and in so doing, play a vital role in determining their life satisfaction and happiness. We may not be able to control what happens to us but we do have control over how we think, our attitudes and how we choose to respond to what life presents to us. We can fight reality or embrace it. We can blame others or try to understand our role and thereby learn and grow from our life experiences. We can berate ourselves or we can respond with kindness and compassion. Above all, clinical psychologists urge us to recognize that we are not helpless victims. How we choose to relate to our life circumstances is no small thing. It can make the difference between a life of needless suffering or a life of joy and gratefulness. Getting people to think about how much control they have over their destiny has been a good thing. It has helped people to question to what extent they truly are a victim and to feel more empowered to test the limits of the extent to which they can indeed affect their own reality!