When Objective Reality Beats You Down

Have you ever felt that the objective world was beating you down? Ever felt like you’ve been dealt a pile-up of problems and annoyances to deal with? If this is an objective universe, then unfortunately the universe doesn’t actually care. But what if this universe isn’t objective? What if you actually live in some other kind of reality, such as a simulation?

Furthermore, what if the simulation is deliberately sending you extra problems and challenges, perhaps in an attempt to discourage you from continuing along the path you’re on? What if you’re living in some type of virtual world, and the world itself is trying to steer you onto a different path with more rewards? And what if your own belief in the objective nature of reality is actually getting in your way, causing you to run patterns and behaviors that actually invite the world to keep punishing you? What if you’re playing against the rules of the world simply out of ignorance?

This Reality Could Indeed Be a Simulation

If you think that you live in an objective reality instead of a simulation, consider that any purported evidence of the objective nature of reality can also be simulated.

A powerful enough simulator can simulate science. It can simulate religious experiences. It can simulate death and an afterlife. It doesn’t need to simulate an entire objective universe all at once, just a limited window into that universe – only what you perceive right now.

A simulator could potentially simulate thoughts, feelings, and beliefs as well, including a belief or bias for assuming that reality is objective. And a simulator could potentially change those thoughts too.

To prove that reality is truly objective and not a simulation, you’d have to show evidence of reality’s objective nature that couldn’t also be simulated by a powerful enough simulator – an impossible task, much like trying to prove you’re not dreaming while you’re dreaming. As part of your proof, you’d have to prove that you’re not inside a simulation. Good luck with that.

Imagine actually being in a simulation, and then the simulation tries to present you with proof that it’s not a simulation. How would it do this? Maybe it would simulate some highly objective characters to try to dispute the possibility. But would their arguments constitute valid proof? Of course not.

You can’t even prove that something outside your current perceptual field is currently instantiated without shifting your perceptual field to do so. And even then, you can only sense what’s coming through your current limited sensory ports.

For instance, you can’t prove that Paris exists right now. You could load up an image or video of Paris, but then you’re merely instantiating an image or a video, not the actual city. Any game world could do the same thing, rendering images of Paris within its world. Even if you are in Paris and can see some of it right in front of you, you can’t prove that the whole city exists. You can only sense what you sense right now, and that could be just a projection of sorts. You can’t prove that anything outside of your current viewport into reality is currently being rendered. If Paris was just a simulation, you’d have no way of knowing.

What if you truly believe that reality is objective in nature? Note that believing that reality is objective is actually a faith-based decision. There is no actual proof of it – and never will be – for the simple reason that a powerful enough simulator could simulate a reality that appears to be objective. So if you go that route of turning a potentially erroneous assumption into a personal belief, then you’re playing the role of a faith-based character and shifting further away from being a person of reason.

Now within a simulation, you can still be very scientific, practical, and grounded, but you’re not doing objective science. You’re doing simulation science. Since you can never know what kind of reality you’re inside of, it’s wise to weave into your exploration and experimentation the possibility that you may be working within a simulation the entire time.

Exploring the Simulation

The understanding that reality could be a simulation also serves as an invitation to explore what else may be possible inside a simulation. What more could you do? What’s inside that rabbit hole?

As it turns out… lots of rabbits.

It wouldn’t be so interesting if, when someone explored this possibility, the result was essentially nothing. That would be an easy way to retreat back to the objective presumption. If it was just an interesting thought experiment with no practical value, you could easily dismiss it as a dead end and return to the familiarity of your objective life as you continue advancing towards your biological death.

However, this is rarely the case. Usually what happens when someone starts to explore the simulation-like qualities of reality, waves of change occur, as if you’ve just granted permission to the simulation to reveal more of its true nature to you. A typical experience is that lot of weird shifts start happening, often very quickly, and it actually gets a lot harder to retreat back to the objective mindset. Depending on how attached you are to objectivity, this can be unsettling, or it can feel magical – or both.

What I like about the simulation model of reality is that it incorporates both objectivity and subjectivity within it. A simulation still follows rules. We could say it has a code base with certain predictable features and functions. But a simulation also allows for flexibility and freshness. Code can be altered.

I especially find value in thinking of myself as a simulated being within a larger simulation, as if I’m a piece of self-aware code. This helps me think about what role I’d like to play and how I might desire to reprogram myself, such as by changing behaviors, shifting my identity, altering my circumstances, etc.

Shedding Personal Weakness

One especially common pattern I’ve seen in those who begin to explore the simulation-like nature of reality is that they start shedding various forms of personal weakness. Certain weaknesses don’t make a lot of sense if you consider that this reality may be a simulation, and so people tend to drop them and progress faster.

For instance, many people conclude: If this might be a simulation, then why the heck am I going along with simulating such a boring job each day? What a waste of life! Others say something similar with regards to relationships: What am I doing investing in this mismatched relationship for so long? I really need to get out of here and connect with more aligned characters. Upon such realizations people often transition quickly.

The simulation perspective often leads to practical and meaningful changes, especially in the areas of work, finances, relationships, and health. People commonly experience better results when using this model versus the objective model. One key reason is that they stop objectifying themselves so much. They consider that if this is a simulation, then surely more is possible, and they’re probably meant to live more interesting lives here. They’re meant to live out some interesting story. They’re not meant to waste the simulation’s impressive processing power rendering dull story and dealing with boring, repetitive problems.

Powering Up Your Relationship With Reality

People also change how they relate to reality itself. The universe is no longer cold or indifferent. The universe is now a fascinating game world of malleable code. There’s a tremendous possibility space to explore. It’s also a world of many challenges, but like any game world, the challenges are meant to be interesting. Good challenges can help you sculpt a rewarding character to play here.

If you think of the universe as purely objective, you’re likely injecting a lot of stubbornness and stagnation into your reality, perhaps without realizing it. In particular, it’s hard to have a meaningful relationship with an objective universe. Consider that it’s easier to have an interesting relationship with an immersive game world and with its characters, and so many people do exactly that. People tend to achieve more in their gaming lives than in their objective lives. And this is partly because objectivity is disempowering.

Why is objectivity so disempowering? What makes objectivity disempowering is its lack of interesting goals. A good game world has interesting goals and quests. They’re programmed into the world by design, and you’re rewarded for accomplishing them. Your character improves and gets stronger. You unlock new prizes. You gain access to fresh challenges. The game world rewards you for playing by its rules.

What does an objective universe reward? Essentially nothing. In the end it just punishes everything with death. An objective universe doesn’t care what you do or don’t do. This is unsettling to say the least, which may explain why 4200 religions have been invented so far. Lots of people are clearly desperate for a more interesting and meaningful alternative. And at least when you add in some other goals (which religions typically introduce), this can make life feel more interesting and meaningful.

Fortunately we don’t need the baggage or irrationality of religion to get us there. We can actually create a more meaningful relationship with reality largely by paying closer attention. Notice what reality rewards, and do more of it. Notice what reality doesn’t reward (or even punishes), and do less of it. Then study the patterns of when reality rewards you versus when it doesn’t. This will help you align with the rules of the simulation, and then you’ll begin getting a better sense of how to live a more rewarding life.

Now this sounds almost too obvious, doesn’t it? But the truth is that you probably aren’t practicing it very well yet. You’re probably still doing things that reality is likely to punish. And you’re probably not doing enough of the things that reality would actually reward. Moreover, you’re probably not yet clear on what those patterns are. I’ll bet you’re still getting surprised more than you care to admit, or you’re stuck circling through patterns that just aren’t unlocking the real flow you’d like to see, and you’re probably blind to what alternatives are possible.

The main issue is that if you’re too objective, you’re not going to take enough risks. You’re going to play it too safe. A good game world rewards risk. A simulation can reward risk as well, sometimes lavishly. Risk makes life fun and engaging, but risk must be rewarded often enough to make it worthwhile. And consequently, people tend to take a lot more risks with their character when they’re in a game world, but if they think they’re in an objective world, their risk tolerance goes way down (and so do the rewards).

What are the rewards of this reality? They’re numerous – emotions, friends, money, good health, self-esteem, relationships, physical pleasure, fun experiences, accomplishments, social status, and more.

These may seem like objective rewards, but an objective universe doesn’t care if you achieve them or not. An objective universe doesn’t care how much money you have. It doesn’t care about your personal health. It doesn’t care how you feel. It’s completely indifferent towards you. You don’t matter to it.

If you believe that you live in a universe that doesn’t care about you, your personal goals, or your happiness, what effect does that have on you? Well, for most it seems to be deeply demotivating. Why bother to play this game of life if life itself doesn’t care? Using this model virtually guarantees a lot of problems that will block you from experiencing and accessing life’s rewards.

A Dreadful Game World

Imagine playing an immersive video game where none of the other game characters actually care if you do anything? Suppose that no one is asking you to save them from Ganon or Voldemort or Zuul. The princess doesn’t care if you save her; she’s okaying being in a D/s relationship with the bad guy. Some characters may whine about their lives, but no one invites or expects you to do anything about it. Even if you try to help save their world, still no one really cares, and there are no rewards for doing so. If you complete a mini-quest, no one will gift you with anything afterwards because they don’t appreciate your efforts. Some of the other characters may call you a dork for trying. Some would say, “You’re just going to get yourself killed, and you’ll probably makes things worse for all of us. And besides, the barn needs cleaning, so maybe you should make yourself useful.”

What kind of game would that be? Would you enjoy playing it? Probably not, but this is how many people attempt to play the game of life. And it goes about as well as you’d expect.

When you consider, however, that we could be living in a simulation, it makes you wonder: What are the rules? Where are the quests? Where’s the treasure? What do I have to do to unlock access to more interesting parts of the world? And this leads to a whole new way of relating to life.

Quite often the first thing people do is to question: What the hell am I still doing in this barn?

If you’re primarily using the objective lens for making decisions in your life, how’s that going so far? Have you figured out the patterns of what life rewards and what it doesn’t reward? Are you living in alignment with those patterns? Do you feel you’re taking enough risks? Are you investing enough in your character growth? Are you creating interesting story? And do you feel that reality cares about any of this?

When you explore the simulation lens, you still grasp that the simulation has rules to play by, but you also see a greater purpose in being here. There’s some flexibility in how your align with that purpose. My current favorite is to focus on living in such a way that creates interesting story. When the story progression of my life starts to stagnate, that’s when I sense that the simulation is about to start kicking my ass to start moving the story in a more interesting direction. But as long as I keep the story development progressing, life tends to reward that. I also feel a lot more engaged with life when I use this model.

By comparison an objective universe doesn’t care about story. When I lean too hard on the objective lens, I typically lose touch with the story progression of my life. I succumb to the trap of creating boring or repetitive story. But I rarely notice this right away. Instead what I notice is this feeling that the rewards that were previously flowing nicely through my life are starting to dry up. I notice that more annoyances (punishments) are beginning to pop up. I experience more frustration and start fighting with reality. And then I realize: Oh dammit… if this is a simulation, I’d be doing things differently. And almost immediately once I start acting in alignment with that co-creative spirit of making interesting story, the feeling of flow returns.

I use the simulation model a great deal for making decisions for one simple reason: It works. It’s an effective way to create desirable results.

I’ve been especially pleased to see that so many others also experience strong results with this model (as per our recent Submersion deep dive, which is still ongoing). For me this has been an interesting story progression too. By inviting other people into this exploration, it’s been showing me that even more is possible – if we cultivate co-creative, cooperative relationships with reality and each other.

We can model this reality in many different ways, and no model is the actual truth. The true nature of reality is unknowable – for the simple reason that we can devise multiple possible ways of mapping events to meaning, and none can be proven true or false. But some mappings are more empowering and useful than others. Some mappings make it easier to experience desirable results. And so it makes sense to lean in the direction of exploring, practicing, and using the most practical mappings.

Objectivity has its place, but since it maps events in ways that are generally meaningless on a personal level, it’s not as useful as some other models for making important decisions. We gain more leverage by using mappings that invite purpose, meaning, and motivation.

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Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina is an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of the web site stevepavlina.com and the book Personal Development for Smart People.

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