A Coaching Power Tool By Christos Vasilopoulos, Business Coach, GREECE
Reality vs. Illusion (R vs. I)
Know Thyself. Inscription on the Temple of Apollo, Delphi, Greece
For someone to fundamentally change their perspective on something, they need to know where they stand now, how they feel about it, what is real about it, and what is not. They also need to see the different elements that consist of that reality. Usually, realizing what “is” can lead to a deeper questioning of each case’s “why’s. “
Changing the perspective on something is beneficial with long-term results when it is based on a deeper understanding of a challenge and not by merely replacing one reality scenario for another, just for the sake of replacement. Ergo, one needs first to see things as they really are, against what they appear to be. That is reality vs. illusion.
To see things (external, thoughts, feelings, beliefs) leads to the knowledge of the self. Knowledge of the self can happen only when someone can see the “Why, “the “What,” and the “How” behind illusions—understanding all that can lead to meaningful, tangible actions and changes.
Reality vs. Illusion Definition
What is Reality?
Reality refers to the state of things as they actually exist, independent of our thoughts, beliefs, or perceptions. Whether we are aware of it or not, the objective, external world exists. Reality can be described as the totality of everything, including physical objects, abstract concepts, and natural laws.
In philosophy, there are different perspectives on what constitutes reality. Some philosophers argue that reality is an objective and independent existence, while others say that our perceptions and subjective experiences shape reality.
Reality is a complex and multifaceted concept that can be understood in various ways depending on the context and perspective.
What is Illusion?
An illusion is a perception that does not correspond to reality or a false interpretation of reality. Illusions can be visual, auditory, or tactile, and various factors, such as physical, cognitive, or emotional factors, can cause them.
Visual illusions occur when our eyes and brain perceive something in a way that differs from the objective reality of the situation. For example, the famous “Müller-Lyer illusion” is a visual illusion in which two lines of equal length appear to be different due to how they are angled.
Auditory illusions occur when our brain perceives sounds in a way that differs from the objective reality of the situation. For example, the “Shepard tone illusion” is an auditory illusion in which a tone seems to continuously increase in pitch, even though it is a repeating pattern.
Tactile illusions occur when our sense of touch perceives something in a way that differs from the objective reality of the situation. For example, the “rubber hand illusion” is a tactile illusion in which a person can feel as though a rubber hand is their hand by simultaneously stroking the rubber hand and their real hand.
Illusions can be fascinating and intriguing, and they can teach a lot about the complex ways our brains interpret and make sense of the world around us.
The Scope of This Tool
In many cases, clients bring forth challenges that seem they have a solid base and are justified in their minds, and they are indeed when they state them. However, during the coaching process, a pattern of thinking is repeated. That is how clients see and feel about themselves against their challenge, along with concepts they have established in their minds that look like entire “mini-worlds” with their own life, thoughts, and “reality.”
Even more times, clients are confused or feel anxiety and fear due to their conceptual projections for the future. That is also something to deal with and unquestionably tangible, but at the same time, it doesn’t exist in the present.
Most of the time, the change comes after distinguishing between what is real and based on facts against what is an illusion.
To slightly paraphrase the promise of Morpheus in the 1st Matrix movie, “All it is offering is the Truth and nothing more”. What action someone decides to take after finding that truth is up to them. The tool helps them see.
Uncovering the truth about the challenge someone seeks answers to always leads to knowing themselves and what they really want in life.
Universal Fundamentals of Reality vs. Illusion
The tool draws inspiration and structure from universal concepts and proven philosophical systems and methods. Here are three examples where one complements the other.
Know Thyself. Temple of Apollo, Delphi
This inscription was placed at the entrance of the temple of Apollo at Delphi, Ancient Greece. The entire phrase is “Know thyself and you will know the universe and the gods.” It is one of the most discussed phrases in history.
Many books have been written on the subject as it was (and still is) a phrase of great importance related to self-knowledge, raising self-awareness, mindfulness, and understanding (similar to W. Blake) the world inside and outside us.
The tool is based on this aphorism to raise awareness about the person, their thoughts, and how they see and feel about the things they want to explore. The process has many layers and is not confined by just a few questions. It can lead to finding the individual purpose.
To See a World in a Grain of Sand, William Blake
It is part of the poem “To See a World…” by William Blake.
To See a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour…..
This verse’s most profound meaning is to know thyself, and you will learn everything from that.
Compassionately seeing ourselves can reduce the self-limiting resistance toward the solution we seek. In that way, people understand themselves as they are (values, fears, desires, etc.). In that way, a person who sees themselves as they are can see the same things in others, and such cultivates compassion towards the self and others. Also, bringing ourselves to the present moment helps us know what is true now.
The poem is longer with verses that raise awareness and understanding of all aspects of life. It largely guides someone to understand how things, thoughts, and actions relate and are interdependent. Seeing the archetype of something leads to understanding everything and seeing the beauty (but not only) in everything.
Buddhism: Self-Existence vs. Interdependence
To see things as they really are. That is one of the core teachings of Buddhist philosophy. To understand whether things exist by themselves or are interdependent and how. By using the tool to explore the “now” and what it consists of, the person gains deep knowledge about the connection between things, thoughts, beliefs of “today” and -very importantly- how they formulated into concepts or illusions.
The best example is a tree. The word describes one thing, but is it like that? We see a tree, but if we think a bit more, we can reveal that the tree is a sum of things. If you think about it, even the Sun is not one thing. A lot of things contributed to manifest the tree; seeds, Sun, water, earth, things that lived in the past, animals, worms, and many more.
Everything around us and inside us is interdependent and not self-existing. We name them with their “sum” label, but they are many. The same happens with feelings and thoughts. They are results and sums of different situations manifest as, i.e., fear. A prejudice implies a sum of things that led to and occurred from it.
By uncovering the particulars of things, a client can understand their”whys” and “what,” which can lead to clarity and purpose for all matters related to a goal.
Blake said we could see the world in a grain of sand. From one thing, we can understand the many.
Uncovering what someone needs to address can lead to meaningful actions that the person can uphold and track, as now they know where it comes from.
All eventually lead to awareness and knowing the self.
Reality Against Illusion
Putting these three fundamental approaches together, we have the concept of the power tool that can dissolve illusions and show reality and reveal vast amounts of knowledge and possible actions.
- By knowing ourselves, we dissolve concepts and understand what we are and want.
- By understanding what we are and want, we also understand how others think and what they want.
- By understanding these and how things interdepend and connect, we can drill down to any challenge and see its particulars and if they have valid existence or are an illusion.
Reality vs. Illusion: The Process
The tool works for several types of challenges where the challenge seems to be based primarily on concepts rather than facts:
- Relationships (colleagues, spouse, kids): When the client presents a scenario about how others think of them. For example, clients may believe they are unlovable or unworthy of a healthy relationship, which can sabotage their efforts to find love.
- For beliefs around self-worth, relationships, money, or career success.
- Business owners may believe they are not good at sales, which could hold them back from growing their businesses.
- For careers: For example, clients may believe they are not qualified for a particular job, which can hold them back from applying.
- In cases where values conflict with duty or necessity.
- Wellness-related: For example, a client may believe that they will never be able to lose weight, which can make it difficult for them to stick to a healthy eating and exercise plan.
- And more…
Seeing things as they are, the client has several options to consider against being trapped in a situation that blocks them.
One essential thing is that the tool does not create a mere virtual projection of a future goal or self or see things differently just for the sake of “something different.” It utilizes the “Now”; it doesn’t backstep and changes the “Now.” That reframes their perspective by placing them -right now- into a new way of seeing and acting. From the “I would like to do/change” to “I am doing it/changing it now.”
Another important thing with this tool is that the client can identify the different elements of their goal’s reality (or illusion) and plan to address these in follow-up sessions, but now- with a structured method and increased awareness.
Questions to make someone shift from illusion to reality are the following. These are samples as, depending on the case, the questions are adjusted accordingly. The reason is that sometimes the findings are a single thing to address, but most of the time, they are plenty.
Defining the Challenge
- What is that are you facing?
- What makes it essential for you to solve it today?
- What will happen when you find the solution?
- How would you know it is the right solution?
- What is that you see stopping you from finding the solution?
Challenging What Is Real
- What emotions are you feeling?
- What do you believe about it?
- What evidence do you have to support this?
- What assumptions are you making?
- What kind of “pictures” it creates in your mind?
- What are the tangible elements that create this specific perspective for you?
- What makes each element real in your mind?
- How do you feel about each of the elements?
- See yourself as an observer of this challenge. How can you prove that the elements it consists of are actual?
- How do they relate to your values?
Framing the Challenge
- How do you see your life with the current perspective and what you discovered?
- What are the options you have with this perspective?
- Now that you see each element of your challenge, how can you move forward?
- How can you track that this solution works for you?
- What will keep you moving forward?
- What resources do you need to support you with your plan?
The Relevance of the Buddhist Theory of Dependent Co-Origination to Cognitive Science – KURTRO (philarchive.org)
Dalai Lama- In Praise of Dependent Arising
Know Thyself: The Philosophy of Self-Knowledge – UConn Today
Müller-Lyer illusion – Wikipedia
Shepard tone – Wikipedia
The Rubber Hand Illusion: Feeling of Ownership and Proprioceptive Drift Do Not Go Hand in Hand – PMC (nih.gov)
Socratic method – Wikipedia