Our minds are complex, beautiful, unique, and dangerous. No matter how much we can logically train our brains to think or react a certain way, our minds still challenge us in ways we may not even realize. They play tricks on us to the extent that even our perception of reality is altered from the truth. The what ifs, what could be, and what has been somehow become clouded by the emotions associated with them (often exaggerated), instead of attached to the actuality of what has and is truly taking place.

I just started watching Westworld, a new HBO series about a theme park of sorts that is designed to look just like the old western times. It is expansive, expensive, and eerily realistic, down to the “robot people” who play different characters within the set. People can pay $40,000 a day to visit and do whatever they please– kill or rape the robots, go on an expedition, or perhaps just enjoy a horseback ride by the river. All “workers,” horses, etc. in the park look, feel, talk, and act like they’re real…so much so that the line between robot and human starts becoming very blurry, especially when they’re constantly harmed by the guests who don’t feel like they’re doing anything wrong since the robots aren’t “real.”

I could write a whole different blog about how we’d all behave if there were no consequences, but that’s not what I want to focus on here. My point in referencing this show is how easily something that isn’t real can start to feel real. How our minds are always ready and able to drive our actions based on emotions or what we’ve seen, even if those experiences are 90% imaginative.

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Think about it– how often have you reacted in a way that wasn’t warranted, but felt legitimate based on what your mind told you was “true”? This slightly relates to the post I wrote about overreacting, but it’s more than just being dramatic. It’s getting angrier and angrier at the thought of how someone wronged you, to the point of hating someone for something that perhaps wasn’t even personal. It’s being convinced that people are making fun of you, when in reality they’re laughing about an awkward moment they had last week. It’s seeing your ex and “knowing” what your life would look like if you were still together, instead of recognizing that this could-have-been-happy-future is all in your head.

Speaking of the romantic aspect of deceptive minds, I think this is why so many people cheat. They find an alternate “reality” with another person, truly believing the affair is different and special– which is just their mind’s way of escaping the difficulties of their own marriage, or perhaps of fulfilling a need that can’t ever be met by another individual. Once the mind clears the smoke a few months or years into that “different” relationship, the person will be right back where they started, having fallen for an emotional, chemical trick of the brain that made them believe their fantastical alternate reality was shinier than it actually was. I mean, this probably doesn’t apply to every cheating situation, but I think it’s safe to say it applies to most. Your mind creates a storyline that simply isn’t real, and unreasonably projects ideals onto other people.

I know that I, personally, have struggled with this. Be it seeing an ex back when I was still single and thinking about the good parts of what “could’ve been,” despite logically knowing it would be nothing like I imagined at all– or feeling disdain towards a person who I deemed a jerk without realizing that I’d based my entire judgment on one observation that I’d interpreted entirely wrong. In my mind, the emotional reactions were real, so my world and outlooks were altered in accordance with these falsified perceptions.

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The trick to keeping your mind aligned with reality is to nip signs of mental fabrication in the bud. The more we feed what we don’t entirely know, the more we accept it as concrete reality. If you find yourself daydreaming about the future of a relationship that is over (or should be), turn on some music and remind yourself of all the reasons you’re just fantasizing– that’s not actually what you want or how it’d play out. If you find yourself making assumptions about a person’s intentions without having spoken with them, don’t keep letting your emotional reaction grow. If you saw someone do something you don’t agree with, ask them about it instead of making snap judgments about something you could’ve misinterpreted.

Simply be aware of how your mind so easily alters the world around you to fit your innate desires, feed emotional tendencies, or provide resolute answers to our questions. Because we as humans naturally want an explanation for everything and are prone to certain feelings, we shouldn’t take what we “know” at face value. Often times, our minds create a reality that feels most comfortable or that validates our feelings. It’s up to us to check ourselves in order to foster the best life we can live in our TRUE reality.